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Category: Medical Marketing

DTC Advertising: Doctors Still Hate It But Industry Continues to Use It

New England Journal of Medicine recently published a paper looking at “A Decade of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs”, where the study authors looked at pharma company spending on DTC advertising and physician promotion in the past 10 years (1996-2006). The authors also looked at the FDA regulation of drug advertising during this time. While drug companies’ promotional spending went from $11.4 billion (1996) to $29.9 billion (2005) where DTC ad expenditures grew by 330%, this made up “only” 14% of the almost $30 billion in drug companies’ promotional spend.

On the other hand, FDA’s warning letters fell from 142 in 1997 to 21 in 2006. The authors speculate this could either be due to drug companies becoming better behaved and playing by the rules, or due to the FDA being too short-staffed to follow up on all violative behaviors. I’m skeptical whether this reduction in FDA warning letters is mostly due to staff shortage at the FDA given how steep this drop was (142 to 21 per year); while I’d like to think that drug companies are finally being “scared straight” by the various scandals and class action lawsuits in the recent years, I’m also not so much of a pollyanna to believe that no violative behaviors are being produced. Still, it looks like DTC is here to stay, as much as many doctors loathe it with a passion of a thousand suns. (more…)

Ladies, Let’s Zap Your Periods

First it’s zapping bad memories (see previous article) and now – monthly periods for women. Gents, you may think of this post as “for ladies only” but keep reading: this has general biological implications for either gender.

Did you know that a small percentage – 8% according to this NYT report – of women have such painful periods that the condition qualifies as a disorder?

Enter Wyeth – a company manufacturing a pill that will zap debilitating periods – “forever”. (more…)

How Much Vermont Psychiatrists and Endocrinologists Received from Drug Companies

Gardiner Harris of New York Times wrote about Vermont’s disclosure of the amount of funds that the states doctors received from drug companies. While the focus was on psychiatrists, because they received top total dollars, I was particularly intrigued that endocrinologists as a specialty followed a close second. Those of you familiar with the field (I briefly worked in the field when I was a pharma employee) know that compared to psychiatrists, endocrinologists are a much smaller group as a specialty.

moneyparachute.gif Still, I was concerned that psychiatrists earn so much money from drug companies because in general, doctors can earn money from drug companies mainly through consulting fees (including speaking fees) or from participating in clinical trials. In neuroscience, clinical trials tend to be very large and time-consuming to have any meaning behind the results. This means psychiatrists wouldn’t make much money per year from clinical trial participation alone, and the bulk of their revenues would come from “consulting” agreements. Consulting agreements usually comprise of speaking engagements and other “advisory board” activities. While we have many more drugs within the psychiatric therapeutic area than endocrinology, why wasn’t cardiovascular specialists a close second or even topping the list? The number of psych drugs could rival the number of cardiovascular drugs on the market.

Could it be that there is much more off-label (unapproved) use of psychiatric drugs than there is for cardiovascular drugs? This was implied by the NYT article, when it noted that psychiatrists who earned a lot of money tend to prescribe psych meds to children the most often. (more…)

Antibiotic Stripped of 2 of 3 Approved Indications

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed 2 of 3 approved indications for the semi-synthetic macrolide antibiotic telithromycin (Ketek, manufactured by sanofi-aventis).

Ketek loses its indication for (1) acute bacterial sinusitis and (2) acute bacterial exacerbations of chronic bronchitis, often abbreviated as “ABECB”. Ketek remains approved for community acquired pneumonia of mild to moderate severity that is acquired outside of hospitals or long-term care facilities. (more…)

Truth in Medical Marketing and CMEs

Recently newsgroup user jkellymdmph asked a question that I had brought up when Google Co-op Health first launched:

How can this group health effort can resist infiltration by aggressive marketing?

jkellymdmph goes on to describe a continuing medical education (CME) event he attended that was supported with an unrestricted grant from a pharmaceutical company. There are two important notes in this story:

1) He thought the CME was very good, and “didn’t notice” that the supporter was a pharma company

2) … until the speaker began to tout the company’s drugs as “the best” (more…)

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