The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars each year on handing out free samples of their expensive brand name drugs to physicians, who in turn hand them out to their patients. As I’ve written about here and here, the obvious marketing truth is that no company would be doing this unless the strategy resulted in a significant increase in sales of those drugs. When you’re looking at a global market for pharmaceuticals expected to top $1.1 trillion by next year, that’s a substantial incentive to keep up this practice. Still, very few physicians believe that doctors accepting billions of dollars in free drug samples annually has the slightest bit of influence on the way they practice medicine. Except, of course, when it’s those other docs out there who are accepting the freebies. Continue reading
Here’s more this month from investigative journalist Alison Bass, author of the book Side Effects: A Prosecutor, a Whistleblower, and A Bestselling Antidepressant on Trial:
“The same drug giants paying millions of dollars to settle claims that they engaged in illegal and improper marketing of anti-psychotic drugs in the U.S. are even now looking for new worlds to conquer. Consider the study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. It surveyed more than 60,000 adults in 11 countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and South America and concludes that the treatment needs for people with bipolar disorder are “often unmet, particularly in low-income countries.”
“That may indeed be true. But I’d find this result a lot more believable if the study were not funded in large part by the same pharmaceutical companies who make the atypical anti-psychotics used to treat bipolar disorder: Eli Lilly (which makes Zyprexa), Janssen (the unit of Johnson & Johnson that brought us Risperdal), Pfizer (Geodon), Bristol Myers Squibb (Abilify), GlaxoSmithKline (Lamictal), and Novartis (Fanapt). Continue reading
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit news agency that produces investigative journalism in the public interest – and this year, it became the first online newsroom to win the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. When they start digging, they find something interesting. Lately, ProPublica has been investigating Big Pharma marketing, particularly the growing practice of recruiting, training and paying doctors to give presentations to other docs about specific drugs.
They’re part of the pharmaceutical industry’s white-coat sales force, doctors paid to promote brand name prescription drugs to their peers — and if they’re convincing enough, to get more physicians to prescribe them. Continue reading