Pharma once again the target of the media

20110818_2011-08-18-NR-yemen-danger-aheadPOST SUMMARY: Tow stories in the media last week, including a cover story in Newsweek, take aim at pharma.  While there is some good reporting most of the content continues to ignore how drugs are marketed today.

The first article, “The insidious new ways Big Pharma is manipulating your doctors’ drug choices” suggests that doctors are blindly following pharma’s attempts to market to them.  For example, it suggests that ads on medical apps, such as ePocrates, persuade doctors to write for certain products. I have reviewed no fewer than three programs, by biotech and pharma companies, on ePocrates and I can tell you that they had a minimal negative effect on ROI.  However the real insult here is that doctors are so dumb that they can be persuaded to write certain medications because of ads.  This isn’t true anymore.

Today, most doctors want proof that new prescription medications work and work well.  Patients, as consumers of healthcare, also want proof that branded products are more effective than generic medications.  To suggest that physicians are drug company zombies following prescription drug ads is simply not true.

The second article, in Newsweek, called “Big Pharma Plays Hide-the-Ball With Data” leads us to believe that all prescription drug clinical trials are worthless because pharma hides negative data.  So let’s be upfront about this….

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There is no excuse for any drug company to “bury” or “hide” data on any prescription medication.  Any company caught doing so should pay a fine equal to the drug in questions sales for the period the product was on the market and people should be held criminally responsible.  However, data via clinical trials is usually never just black and white.  There are too many variables in play in clinical trials and every variable has to be scrutinized when both good and bad data is received.  More and more drug companies are making all their clinical trial data available to physicians for review.

One has to wonder, with insurers making money hand over fist, and hospitals, marking up drugs, 2500%, why the media continues to go after pharma.  Sure, some of it is warranted, but drug costs are still only 11% of every health care dollar spent.  The media is excellent at stirring the pot to get our temperatures boiling but they are not very good at offering solutions.

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