Propublica, you muckraking, fact-finding, whistle-blowing, dirt-loving tabloid with the shiny sheen of intellectualism, how I love ya! No, I really do. I love dirt. I read People. I’m not proud. I especially love any dirt anyone has to shovel on pharmaceutical companies, of which Propublica, the independent investigative journalism organization, has piles. Charles Ornstein’s latest has to do with the marketing of drugs to physicians, a subject near and dear to my heart. You will not be surprised to hear that Big Pharma spent the most money on doctors when promoting the least useful, most expensive drugs. Drugs like Brilinta and Pradaxa, both anti-clotting drugs that compete with Warfarin and Plavix, standbys that we know work that are now generic. Or Victoza, which lowers blood sugar with a once-a-day injection but has also been linked with thyroid cancer and pancreatitis. None of this is even really news.
I did learn something, however when I clicked on a little button that says “read” beside some of the drugs listed in the piece. I found letters.
Huh. Someone in the office of some healthcare professional on May 17th, 2011 took the time to read the research, or at least dig through the free lunch to read the glossy brochure, call out the sales rep, and actually report him or her. There are others. Vice Presidents of the companies that make Xarelto, Humira, Daliresp, and Copaxone got similar letters about their reps, their ads, or other marketing tools.
Turns out the FDA has a program through its office of drug promotion called, wonderfully, the Bad Ad program. Here is the FDA website:
“FDA’s Bad Ad program is an outreach program designed to educate healthcare providers about the role they can play in helping the agency make sure that prescription drug advertising and promotion is truthful and not misleading. The Bad Ad Program is administered by the agency’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. The program’s goal is to help raise awareness among healthcare providers about misleading prescription drug promotion and provide them with an easy way to report this activity to the agency: e-mail BadAd@fda.gov or call 855-RX-BADAD.”
Bad Ad has even developed a continuing medical education course on the subject. The most common offenses, according the the guys that run the program, include overstating the efficacy of a drug, omitting or minimizing the risks, and making comparisons between drugs when no research has been conducted concerning such a comparison.
Here’s what you do, doctors:
Don’t listen to drug reps. Don’t let them in your door, certainly not with food.
If your secretary gets seduced by a thousand free pens and a rep gets near you, politely refuse their Panera pressed paninis and read the fine print.
From → Healthcare