Can you trust that doctor-recommended drug?

There is no doubt that marketing now plays a major role in the pharmaceutical industry. And when it comes to marketing pharmaceuticals, physician recommendations are considered gold. The problem is that it is difficult to determine when doctors are making recommendations as patient advocates or when they are making recommendations as spokespeople for drug companies.

Recently, this issue came to light after the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed guidelines that apply to the prescription drugs used to treat acne in childhood. Alarmingly, the vast majority of the “experts” who drafted the guidelines were paid spokespeople for the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs. What’s worse, the organization that produced the guidelines made 98 percent of its profits in 2011 from the companies that make acne drugs.

As a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association explained, “[t]he basis for these guidelines seems to be marketing, not science.”

As it turns out, the market for teen acne treatments is a profitable one. In fact, last year alone, the top five prescription acne drugs took in a reported $1 billion in sales in the United States, the drug-market research firm IMS Health reported.

For that reason, it is difficult these days to determine whether a drug is being approved by medical professionals because it is actually safe, or because the medical professionals are being paid to say that it is safe. This can be a confusing and a downright dangerous game for consumers deciding whether or not to spend their money on elective drug treatments.

All too often, dangerous drugs find their way onto the market and end up causing consumers harm. When this happens, drug companies can face liability in product liability lawsuits, but the damage has already been done.

Source: Journal Sentinel, “Developer of acne guidelines largely funded by drug makers,” John Fauber, Sept. 15, 2013