Prescription Drug Companies Have Used Deceptive Practices: NJ Public Interest Research Group
Going back in time a bit, the March 1, 2005 edition of Bottom Line/Health featured an excellent article for patients and doctors, entitled "Don't Be Deceived By Drug Company Tactics", by Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and now a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School's department of social medicine in Boston.
Here is an excerpt from Dr. Angell's article, as regards the current state of prescription drug marketing:
Fact: Between 1997 and 2001, drug companies tripled the amount of money they spent on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs. . . .
Fact: Drug companies spend more than twice as much on "marketing and administration" as they do on [research and development] -- 31% of sales, compared with 14% in 2003. . . .
Fact: Of the 487 drugs approved by the FDA from 1998 through 2003, only 32% contained new active ingredients and fewer than half of those (14% of the total) were classified by the FDA as improvements over older drugs. . . .
Fact: In 2001 the drug industry employed approximately 88,000 sales representatives to visit doctors in their offices and hospitals to promote their products -- roughly one representative for every six practicing physicians. . . .
More recently, a May 3, 2006 article by Associated Press (AP) reporter Angela Delli Santi discussed a revealing report entitled "Turning Medicine Into Snake Oil: How Pharmaceutical Marketers Put Patients At Risk":
Drug makers commonly exaggerate claims, promote unproven uses and underplay medicines' risks when marketing to doctors and customers. . . .
Doctors and consumers are inundated with false and misleading advertising on television, in print and through literature handed out by drug sales reps, and the Food and Drug Administration is ineffective at stopping the abuses, says the report, which was written by the New Jersey chapter of the Public Interest Research Group [PIRG] . . . .
The report's author, Abigail Caplovitz, characterized the problem of false drug claims as "broad and serious."
"Drug marketers are pushing drugs in deceptive ways that put the public at risk," Caplovitz said. "Vioxx may be the poster child, but our report shows the problem is pervasive throughout the industry. This is not a matter of a single bad apple. . . ."
Further, this report by NJ PIRG informs us, according to the May 2006 AP article, that:
Some 62 percent of false or misleading messages documented in the report targeted doctors. In more than a third of those cases, physicians received information minimizing or misrepresenting a drug's risks;
Drug marketers turned clinical trials into marketing tools by suppressing unfavorable results, or misreporting results;
A letter from the FDA did not always deter deceptive advertising: One-third of the drug marketers received more than one letter from the agency for the same problem.
A spokeswoman for the FDA reportedly did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking comment about this May 2006 NJ PIRG report.
(Posted by: Tom Lamb)