Pharmaceuticals Anonymous

Monday, August 10, 2009

What don't we know about the pharmaceutical industry?

A NYT Freakonomics quorum.

From the page:
Dr. Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at Yale:

"Science and the public good in a capitalist society depend on the free flow of unbiased information, but it doesn’t always work that way. Events are revealing that many pharmaceutical companies, along with their consulting academic physicians, have engaged in practices that obscure or misrepresent information about their products. Does the public realize the depth of these practices, and their implications for patient care?

Most physicians continue their education and keep up to date with new science by attending lectures given by experts, with the assumption that the information they hear is unbiased. But pharmaceutical companies regularly pay high-profile scientists and physicians, either directly or indirectly, to speak on topics relevant to their products. At a scientific meeting in Europe, I watched an American colleague — a famous cardiologist who was being well compensated for his participation — practice his upcoming speech in front of drug company marketers. After his practice talk, they replaced some slides with ones that presented their drug in a more favorable light. The speaker initially resisted the change, but finally acceded, and his talk the next day was a strong endorsement of his sponsor’s drug."