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An Overdose of Ads
This editorial notes that the Vioxx debacle was fueled by the popularity of the drug, i.e. it was certainly prescribed and used by a larger population than was necessarily appropriate given its safety profile and indications. “Vioxx became such a big seller even though it was designed for a specific group of mostly older patients with a risk of gastro intestinal problems because Merck peddled it in a highly successful mass-media campaign using skater Dorothy Hamill.” While there are no indications that Merck knowingly exposed patients to a drug it thought was dangerous, the business model Merck pursued – the blockbuster model – created the tsunami that is now threatening to destroy it.
In the future, companies will have to pay much closer attention to how they market drugs, and use genetic screening, datamining and physician education to match drugs more precisely with patient profiles.
In the short run this may that fewer drugs are used by tens of millions of people, but in the long run it will also allow companies to demonstrate efficacy and cost-effectiveness and develop a safety track record that will reassure patients, physicians, and regulators that America’s drug supply is every bit as safe and effective as advertised.
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