Monthly Archives: June 2007

Good Science v. Aggressive Marketing: Drug Companies Using Doctors as Marketing Tools

It’s quite common for a consumer to feel secure that when a doctor extols the advantages of a certain drug, the praise is supported by scientific evidence. Increasingly, this is not the case. In some cases, the doctor in question has not even written the report on the drug. The culprit: large pharmaceutical companies who pay doctors handsomely for the use of their name and reputation to promote their drug. A recent NY Times article demonstrated this alarming trend:
“According to the most recent data available from the national organization in charge of accrediting the courses, drug-industry financing of continuing medical education has nearly quadrupled since 1998, from $302 million to $1.12 billion. Half of all continuing medical education courses in the United States are now paid for by drug companies, up from a third a decade ago. Because pharmaceutical companies now set much of the agenda for what doctors learn about drugs, crucial information about potential drug dangers is played down, to the detriment of patient care.”
It doesn’t take much effort to find recent examples of this new trend. Avandia and Zyprexa are two of the drugs making headlines today. The pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly and Glaxo Smith Kline have agressively over promoted their drugs for purposes that the FDA never approved. In the case of Avandia, the pharmaceutical companies promoted an all out marketing assault on doctors. The NY Times article states, “For example, GlaxoSmithKline footed the bill for dozens of educational courses intended to emphasize the benefits of Avandia over other drugs. An influential Internet-based educational program paid for by the company focused on specific studies that highlighted Avandia’s advantages without discussing one of the drug’s most worrisome side effects, increased levels of the lipids implicated in heart disease.”
The drug companies are now the chief educator of our doctors and they provide skewed, sometimes inaccurate date to the medical professionals in order to increase the sales of their drug products. This trend is dangerous for the average consumer who relies on sound medical advice from their doctors. While it’s only natural to assume that doctors are basing their diagnoses and their prescriptions on scientific data and good medical practice, it is no longer wise to assume this.

Diabetes Doctor Says Glaxo Smith Kline Tried to Stop His Criticism of Avandia

Dr. John Buse, a recognized diabetes expert, has claimed that the manufacturer of Avandia tried to quash his criticism of the drug. This claim has led to a congressional investigation and the doctor’s testimony before Congress next week. According to a story published in the NY Times, “Congressional investigators have been looking into what they have called “very serious” claims that Avandia’s maker ‘silenced one or more medical professionals who attempted to speak out about the potential for cardiovascular problems with Avandia,’ according to a letter to Glaxo last week from the Senate Finance Committee.”