"Risky Rx: Drug maker's secret strategies"
Here's an amazing story published by NBC News and written by Robert Bazell. Actually, he is simply reporting on an even more amazing story in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Is this really true? You may ask.
Yep. This story is based on over 8,000 court documents which Pfizer tried to seal. Didn't work out for Pfizer. Judge denied their motion to seal documents. Ha! And now the story is out:
Risky Rx: Drug maker's secret strategies
‘Disturbing’ glimpse into how marketing dupes doctors — and patients
By Robert Bazell
"We know that physicians meet a parade of drug company sales representatives from their first days of medical school to retirement and that they see drug ads every time they pick up a medical journal.
At least that is represented as the advertising it is.
But a study in this week's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine provides extensive detail about how drug companies push their products in far more subtle ways.
Some drug makers pay key leaders in a field of medicine, such as chairs of departments in medical schools, tens of thousands of dollars if they are saying the right things about their product. They manipulate medical education sessions, lectures, articles in medical journals, research studies, even personal conversations between physicians to get their product message across.
"It is very disturbing," says lead author Dr. Michael Steinman of the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Hospital. "It really does a disservice to patient care."
Reliable estimates put the drug industry’s expenditure on promotion to doctors at $18.5 billion — that's about $30,000 a year for every physician in the U.S. Companies conceal the specifics of those efforts with a jealousy worthy of a state secret.
Now a huge collection of drug company internal documents — revealed as part of a lawsuit —offers a wealth of detail.
In 1996, Dr. David Franklin, an employee of the drug company Parke-Davis, filed the lawsuit under federal whistleblower statutes alleging that the company was illegally promoting an epilepsy drug called Neurontin for so called “off-label” uses. Under federal law, once the FDA approves a drug, a doctor can prescribe it for anything. But the law specifically prohibits the drug company from promoting the drug for any unapproved uses.
In 2004, the company, by then a division of Pfizer admitted guilt and agreed to pay $430 million in criminal and civil liability related to promoting the drug for off-label use.
Spokespeople for Pfizer say that any wrong doing occurred before Pfizer acquired the company. But Pfizer fought hard to keep all the papers related to the suit under seal. A judge denied the request and they are now part of the Drug Industry Document Archive at the University of California, San Francisco.
Steinman and his team summarized some of the key findings from the extensive collection in their paper. It is obvious why the company wanted to keep the documents from public view."
Read the full article here.
And if you want more, check out the book to the left, by Marcia Angell, "The Truth About the Drug Companies." There you'll read a lot more.