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Bad Ad

January 8, 2015

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.

Dear S0-and-so, marketing director, Big Pharmaceutical Company,
This letter notifies Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. that the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) of the US Food and Drug Administration has become aware of oral statements made by a Sunovion sales representative on May 17, 2011, to a healthcare professional regarding its drug, Latuda.  The sales representative’s statements are false or misleading because they promote an unapproved use and minimize risks associated with Latuda.  Thus this promotional activity misbrands Latuda in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

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 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

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety permalink

    They don’t talk to me much any more. For instance: I listened to a pharmaceutical rep give his big long spiel, looked over his product phamphlets, and said “So basically you want me to prescribe a drug that costs at least 3 times as much and doesn’t work any better than insulin?” He really didn’t know what to say to that at first then he started mumbling about how patients on his drug lost more weight than those on insulin. I remarked that it was basically a 2 (IRRC) pound difference and really who cares about that. That was the end of that. He still comes to the office but we don’t use his products much (other than the insulins) and he seems pretty nervous when I say “hi” to him. I think he – and maybe the company at large – counts on people not having the time nor the inclination to actually read the research. Well I happen to like reading research, mostly to pick it apart. 🙂

  2. Great job! Only … you want to remove everything ?utm and on … just an FYI. 🙂

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