Science vs. marketing?

guidelinesPOST SUMMARY: Researchers find that nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half receive at least two prescriptions, but why medications are prescribed should not be determined by pharma pressure on medical/scientific guidelines.

According to the Opinion pages of today’s NY Times, “There are roughly 11 million Americans over age 65 with diabetes. Most of them take medications to reduce their blood sugar levels.” As a result, for more than a decade, medical societies, pharmaceutical companies and diabetes groups have campaigned with a simple, concrete message — to get below an A1C of seven. However, given the questionable benefits and the very real risks of going below seven, the American Geriatrics Society and the Veterans Affairs diabetes guidelines have, for years, recommended a cautious, case-by-case approach for older patients.


The diabetes drug industry has a vested interest in selling its products to as many Americans as it can, and has been incredibly successful at doing so. There is nothing wrong with the industry selling its drugs, but it is the job of the medical profession to guide what treatment patients receive not pharma and each patient needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

So the question of marketing vs. science is very real, but what is the industry doing to inform physicians beyond influencing articles in journals?  Make no mistake about it diabetes is a devastating disease responsible for billions in health care costs, but it’s essential that physicians evaluate patients on a case by case basis beyond A1C lab results.

I understand that the NY Times has gone out of their way to pinpoint pharma’s shortcomings, but given the reputation of the industry, there can’t be any room for doubt that guidelines were changed to sell more drugs.