New York Times - 8-Oct-2008
The drug maker Pfizer earlier this decade manipulated the publication of scientific studies to bolster the use of its epilepsy drug Neurontin for other disorders, while suppressing research that did not support those uses, according to experts who reviewed thousands of company documents for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the company.
- The drug maker Pfizer earlier this decade manipulated the publication of scientific studies to bolster the use of its epilepsy drug Neurontin for other disorders, while suppressing research that did not support those uses, according to experts who reviewed thousands of company documents for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the company.
- Pfizer's tactics included delaying the publication of studies that had found no evidence the drug worked for some other disorders, ''spinning'' negative data to place it in a more positive light, and bundling negative findings with positive studies to neutralize the results, according to written reports by the experts, who analyzed the documents at the request of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
- One of the experts who reviewed the documents, Dr. Kay Dickersin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, concluded that the Pfizer documents spell out ''a publication strategy meant to convince physicians of Neurontin's effectiveness and misrepresent or suppress negative findings.''
- Pfizer issued a statement Tuesday denying that it had manipulated Neurontin data, saying ''study results are reported by Pfizer in an objective, accurate, balanced and complete manner, with a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the study, and are reported regardless of the outcome of the study or the country in which the study was conducted.''
- The expert reports, unsealed Monday in a federal court in Boston, add to accusations that the pharmaceutical industry has controlled the flow of clinical research data, blurring the lines between science and marketing.
- In April, for example, a group of academic doctors questioned the validity of drug industry research after finding that Merck had hired ghostwriters to produce scientific articles about Vioxx, then recruited prestigious doctors to serve as their official authors.
- Vioxx, a painkiller, was withdrawn from the market in 2004 after research indicated it could cause strokes and heart attacks.
- Last winter, Merck and Schering-Plough were criticized for delaying the release of a study on their best-selling cholesterol medication Vytorin that showed the drug did not slow the growth of plaque in arteries.
Here we go yet again.
The story above concerns Pfizer, but they are not alone. Many pharmaceutical companies employ the same strategies, and you need to be aware, especially when watching their well produced television commercials.
For physicians to utilize medications properly, we need to have access to good information. This should include not only positive results, but also the negative results of testing and trials. Physicians need to use their own brains to pore through all the information, and use their instincts to distinguish truthful information from what I will now dub, pharminformation.
In today's health insurance dominated system, patient's are often rushed through their doctor's evaluation quickly. It is easier for a doctor to hand you a prescription and move on to their next patient. It would only take a few more minutes to get to the root cause of your illness, and to formulate other options or treatments, instead of relying on just a prescription. And the more rushed doctor's are, the less time they have to think through the pharminformation. The healthcare system has changed the way doctor's practice, and it has changed the trusting relationship the pharmaceutical industry once had with the public.
Treating the individual and their illness, instead of only their symptom has been my focus since I started my practice. I do not rush through patient visits. You are given the time needed to discuss your issues and to answer follow up questions appropriately. Sometimes that puts me a few minutes behind schedule, and I apologize. But be certain that I will always give you the time you need. A few extra minutes of conversation goes a long way in preventing pharminformation from affecting your health.
Steven Horvitz, D.O.
Board Certified Family Medicine
Founder of The Institute for Medical Wellness