Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Academics, Atypicals, and Marketing

Ahhhh, there is nothing like the sweet smell of investigative journalism in the morning. Robert Farley published a whale of an excellent piece on how atypical antispychotics were marketed in the St. Petersburg Times on Saturday. I will discuss some of the tasty tidbits from the article, but you'd be a fool to not read the entire article yourself.

Farley notes that the manufacturers of atypical antipsychotics needed to spread the word that their drugs worked better than older antipsychotics. The one slight problem was that there was not any solid evidence (except when looking at biased studies) showing that the new drugs were superior. So if the companies could not advertise this point directly, they needed to enlist third parties to say it for them. In other words, it was time for some information laundering. In what has become the standard operating procedure for the field, "independent" academics were enlisted to make recommendations that the new drugs were better than the old drugs.

So hire a few academics as consultants, fly them off to a "consensus conference," and have them generate treatment guidelines. Would the guidelines be biased? Well, yeah, but that's pretty much the point -- science be damned, it's about market share, baby. Like the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), which helped to propel the atypicals to first-line treatment (and second-line, for that matter), and other TMAP clones across the nation. Throw in a few studies of the effectiveness of TMAP, then misinterpret their results, and BAM, you've now established (based on little to no credible evidence) that atypical antipsychotics are the new wonder drugs. And with the wind at your back, hey, why not see if you can market these drugs for everything? After all, you've got the support of the "independent" academic community...

Also see Psych Central's take on the story.


Philip Dawdy said...

ah yes the smell of investigative reporting in the morning. i remember it well.

farley does great work and this is top notch as usual.

Radagast said...

Shall we just remind ourselves as to who the Governor of Texas was, when TMAP was instituted. Yup, it was Shrub.