It has been a few days, including a weekend, since I wrote about pharma advertising. I am happy this morning to return to this topic and to share an excellent essay written by my husband, Lowell Schnipper, in JAMA Oncology. .
For a number of years, he has been very involved in work re the cost of cancer drugs, the value of drugs, the choices made by patients and their doctors. This is a complicated topic with a number of interested parties, including the pharmaceutical companies. We all understand that their primary goal, like any business, is to make money, but their insistence that the sky high drug costs are necessary to support their expensive research and development efforts are hard to swallow.
From my biased viewpoint, they advertise directly to scared consumers as a way to make an end run around the normal process of discussion between a doctor and patient. Yes, informed patients often make better decisions, but does anyone really think that advertising is neutral information?
Here is a quote and a link to read more:
Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising in Oncology Is Not Beneficial to Patients or Public Health
Lowell E. Schnipper, MD; Gregory A. Abel, MD, MPH
In the current communications era, cancer medications,
cancer-related genetic testing, and even cancer
centers are often marketed directly to the public. While
there is little evidence so far that it generates inappropriate
treatment recommendationsin oncology,1 cancer related,
direct-to-consumer advertising (CR-DTCA) is
prone to cause harm in many other ways. These include potentially
fostering patient misinterpretations of
expected efficacy and toxic effects of drugs with concomitant
harm to the patient-physician therapeutic relationship;
encouraging patient interest in new drugs
when their toxic effects are not fully appreciated; and
failing to present alternative treatment approaches that
may be less toxic or costly.
A recent example is a television advertisement for
nivolumab (Opdivo), an anti–programmed cell death 1
(PD-1) monoclonal antibody from Bristol-Myers Squibb
approved in 2015 for patients with squamous non–
small cell lung cancer. The text is announced over uplifting
music and features people who ostensibly have
cancer and their families enjoying excellent quality of life
in a beautiful city at sunset. Positive messages about the
drug are projected on buildings as patients and families
look on. Later, these same people are watching a baseball game,
walking a dogin a lovely park,and playingwith
grandchildren.No one is filmed being infused,and no one
seems to be experiencing significant toxic effects.