Consumer organisations criticise influence of drug companies

The BMJ with some tough words for the pharmaceutical industry. Some statements I agree with:

These can often be for quite trivial conditions, such as toenail infections, and they encourage patients to go and see their general practitioner, often in quite strong terms,” said Mr Vidler. “At the same time the industry will be advertising drugs to these GPs, and our research shows that GPs often take the path of least resistance and say yes to patients and prescribe the drug even though they feel it may not be the most appropriate thing to do.

So true. Many patients come in asking for Lamasil, not knowing that it is a 12-week course of therapy and that liver function tests have to be monitored during treatment. Conveniently left out of the commercial.

Some statements are controversial:

Professor Healy claimed that at least half of articles on drug efficacy that appear in the BMJ, the Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine are ghost-written by pharmaceutical companies and that “the most distinguished authors from the most prestigious universities” put their names to them without ever seeing the raw data.

I wonder how much of this is true – if so, then we’re in bigger trouble than I thought.

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