HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Drug Ads

If you are still recovering from the news that some of the drug advisors that voted to keep various cox-2 drugs on the market also had ties to the pharmaceutical industry, well, you should brace yourself for yet another pharma story . . . .

According to Science Daily, a UCLA study uncovered the fact that nearly 1/3 of drug ads in medical journals did not contain references supporting medical claims.   The researchers explained their reasons for conducting such a study in addition to their findings.  Science Daily reports,

"Previous studies have shown that physicians' drug prescribing is influenced by pharmaceutical ads. We wanted to see what documents were being used to substantiate the claims and how accessible these were to physicians who may want to verify the research findings," said lead author Dr. Richelle Cooper, assistant clinical professor, Division of Emergency Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Two UCLA investigators independently reviewed 438 ads from 10 American medical journals from 1999 and also reviewed a random sample of 400 references in journal articles from the same publications for comparison.

Researchers found that out of 438 pharmaceutical ads, 126 (29 percent) offered no references in support of medical claims. The most commonly cited references in the ads included journal articles (55 percent) and data-on-file (19 percent), which is a reference to an unpublished company document. Other sources included books; prescribing information such as the Physician's Desk Reference, which annually provides information on drug usage, warnings and drug interactions; government documents; or an Internet site.

You can read the full study in Cooper RJ, Schriger DL. The availability of references and the sponsorship of original research cited in pharmaceutical advertisements. CMAJ. 2005;72: February 15. [Free full-text]

For further comments, see Majikthise, Caveat Medicus, from February 24, 2005.  She is a wonderful blogger and has some great insight into this story having worked previously as a medical writer. 

Thanks to Majikthise for this story and her illuminating comments.  [bm]

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