Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Article in the New York Times -- Medicine and the Drug Industry, a Morality Tale, by Abigail Zuger, M.D. Here's an excerpt:
Less familiar may be some of industry’s other friendly overtures: the lavish junkets and cash rewards for some “high-prescribing” doctors; the subtle manipulations of research data; the way-too-generous financing of postgraduate medical education; the very cozy relationship with the Food and Drug Administration and its physician consultants; and a casually Orwellian interference with the average physician’s prescription pad.
A drug salesman recalls for Dr. Brody the time his company asked a local doctor to evaluate various sales presentations for a particular drug: “He’d been selected because our data showed that he was a relatively low prescriber. ...Basically, the company was willing to bet $500 or $750 that if he heard the same drug pitch all day, by the end of the day he’d be so brainwashed that he could not possibly prescribe any other drug but ours.”
All this mutual back-scratching would be fine if patients’ interests were indeed being served. But ample data indicates quite the reverse. Patients, after all, are the ones who pay for expensive drugs when cheaper would do as well, and the ones who swallow dangerous drugs nudged to market by their manufacturers.
The epitaph of the recently withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, whose virtues were subtly spun to the medical community in prestigious research journals, is still being written in litigation around the country.
“Research that is driven by marketing rather than by scientific aims would seem, in the end, to be low-quality research,” Dr. Brody comments mildly about the Vioxx fiasco.