This was a very bad week for those whose careers depend on the use of deceptive marketing tactics.
1. JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) published this article written by Joe Ross and colleagues exposing Merck’s use of ghostwriters to disseminate studies in support of Merck’s ill-fated arthritis drug, Vioxx.
2. The same JAMA issue reported that Merck had hidden its knowledge of the Vioxx dangers in studies of the drug in Alzheimer's disease. Those still looking for evidence that relying on industry sources of information can lead to bad outcomes—in this case, death—need look no further than this article.
3. The editor in chief and deputy editor of JAMA wrote this scathing commentary in response to these articles, which began with the following statement: “The profession of medicine, in every aspect—clinical, education, and research—has been inundated with profound influence from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. This has occurred because physicians have allowed it to happen, and it is time to stop.”
4. The New York Times published this article by Gina Kolata interviewing three high profile academic doctors who have relinquished industry ties and feel better about themselves and their profession as a result.
5. The current issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases contains this paper by Speilmans and colleagues showing that only half of drug ads in psychiatry cite sources for their marketing claims, and of that half, only 65% of the cited sources support the claims. Steven Sharfstein, former president of the American Psychiatric Society, wrote an accompanying editorial. He urges both the FDA and the journals themselves to better evaluate drug advertising claims. He concludes: “The doctor-patient relationship should not be a market-driven phenomenon. If patients are to trust their physicians, they need to know that their interests are paramount and that the physicians’ knowledge base is up-to-date and accurate.”
6. Prescribing for Better Outcomes, a website devoted to educating physicians about inappropriate marketing tactics, released a journal supplement and a webinar helpful for those who are interested in a non-industry perspective on the use of epileptic medication in bipolar disorder.
It looks like the era of post-deception medicine is finally dawning.