Regular readers of our blog and newsletter are certainly familiar with the lengths Big Pharma goes to in pushing their product, as we’ve often commented on their tactics – manipulated studies, disease mongering, giving gifts and money to doctors and so on. This week, however, a new one came to light: creating a fake medical journal (login required; bypass available via bugmenot):
Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles – most of which presented data favorable to Merck products – that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship.
“I’ve seen no shortage of creativity emanating from the marketing departments of drug companies,” Peter Lurie, deputy director of the public health research group at the consumer advocacy nonprofit Public Citizen, said, after reviewing two issues of the publication obtained by The Scientist. “But even for someone as jaded as me, this is a new wrinkle.”
That makes stuff like cherry-picking study participants to improve results absolutely pale in comparison:
Findings from clinical studies used to gain Food and Drug Administration approval of common antidepressants are not applicable to most patients with depression, according to a report led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Published in the May issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study suggests only a small percentage of people with depression qualify for these studies, and those who do not qualify are often treated with the same medications but may suffer poorer clinical outcomes.
You have to wonder: if Big Pharma’s product is so good, why go to such lengths?
Sadly, we live in a world full of hype and spin, where appearances can trump reality. And in the realm of health and medicine, it’s not just the corporate behemoths doing the spinning. According to the WSJ Health Blog,
A piece out in the Annals of Internal Medicine takes a look at press releases that academic medical centers sent out about their research, examining such details as whether they gave information on the studies’ size, hard results numbers and cautions about how solid the results are and what they mean. The conclusion: The press releases “often promote research that has uncertain relevance to human health and do not provide key facts or acknowledge important limitations.”
When we see stuff like this, one story after another, we completely understand why some people give up on paying attention to “health news”…