Pharma Marketing Getting the Squeeze

February 12, 2009

Disclosure is becoming a bigger and bigger issue now with respect to physicians’ relationships with drug companies.

Disclosure is becoming a bigger and bigger issue now with respect to physicians’ relationships with drug companies. I see medical writers whining about it in online communities (what’s the big deal if I write a peer-reviewed [pharma funded] journal article for a doctor, as long as he reviews it before it’s published?), drug companies are coming forth with online disclosure initiatives regarding direct payments to physicians and even some medical education, and just a couple of days ago an article was published regarding calls within a specific professional group—the American Psychiatric Association–to cut back on seminars funded by drug companies.

I’m all for making a decent living, mind you. But pharmaceutical marketing has gotten out of hand—I can’t turn on TV without hearing that I should ask my doctor about the latest, greatest birth control pill, anti-depressant, or erectile dysfunction treatment. Marketing permeates medical conferences as well. I attended several symposia on assignment last year, had a nice dinner with wine, and left with a toy turtle and the impression that next to cancer, chronic constipation was the treatment challenge of our times. Don’t try to tell me that the symposium panel of experts wasn’t biased, either – all of the attendees left knowing what the treatment of choice for the next constipated patient should be.

My daughter got the plastic turtle. I, on the other hand, dreamed about the Bristol Stool Chart for a week after I got home. BTW, did you know that the chart has its own Facebook page? I don’t have words for that little find. And it even has fans.

Disclosure is a good step, but a step nonetheless. There needs to be more. The call of Big Pharma in the pediatric community is arguably less than that exercised in the areas of psychiatry or oncology, but it is still present and I hope to see more professional organizations comment on it.