An book review in the NYTimes today focuses on Melody Petersen, a former reporter of the Times, who has written a book against Big Pharma's marketing tactics called Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves Into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs. In the book, she asks:
“Could drugs be killing people but escaping all blame, leaving them to harm even more Americans until someone, finally, catches on?” Ms. Petersen asks.
Few of us have. Most of America hasn't. Petersen outlines in great detail – the point of repetition according to Janet Maslin's review – Big Pharma's propensity for skewing clinical trial results so that their drugs perform better than placebo, the increased and ubiquitous DTC marketing, and the "payola-dispensing drug company representatives."
(“Hotel too cold inside,” one said, in an evaluation of a June 1998
drug company program, adding, “Resort places preferred.” From a
different doctor, miffed at the lack of a chauffeur at another event:
“Hired car would have been much preferable.”
Petersen also covers Big Pharma's tactic of fixing side effects of medications by creating medications to fix the side effects leading to medication on medication.
And when the side effects of sleeping pills or antidepressants mean
more elderly people fall down, the solution is not likely to be the
scaling back of such prescriptions. “Instead,” she writes, “the
companies have used the statistics on falls to create a new blockbuster
pharmaceutical market for drugs they claim will reduce the chances of
breaking a bone.”
According to the Maslin's review, the book calls for non-government watchdog agencies and closer oversight on published studies, which Petersen says are ghostwritten by pharma spokespeople. Overall, Petersen's book sounds like a must-read for anyone who is skeptical of Big Pharma's activities. However, I doubt her book will get much press or coverage considering that you can't read any major publication without turning the page and seeing a drug ad then the required 2-page side effect warning that everyone skips over. If anyone reads the book, I'd like to know your thoughts about it.
Sorry if this post sounds hastily written. I'm off to an interview to freelance for a company.