Monday, November 23, 2009

New study finds link between TV ads and higher drug prices

We've got family coming in for Thanksgiving and I have much to do. So this week, I'd just like to point my faithful readers to three items of interest:

1. Gary Schwitzer's great blog, which goes a long way to explaining why there was such an unholy ruckus about the new mammography guidelines issued last week despite the fact that the US Preventative Task Force's recommendations were based on the clear weight of scientific evidence.

2. The HHS Inspector General's finding that very few universities report the financial conflicts of their researchers, as required, to the government. Even when such conflicts are reported, university administrators rarely require researchers to eliminate or reduce such conflicts, according to the audit as reported in The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Inspector General's audit is the latest in a series that have criticized both universities and the National Institutes of Health (which distributes $24 billion a year in research money) for not being more serious about curbing blatant conflicts of interest. Yet, as the audit concludes, "It is vital to public health and safety that this research not be biased by researchers' conflicts."

3. An interesting new finding in the Archives of Internal Medicine today that direct to consumer advertising may be associated with increased drug prices. Researchers studied consumer advertising for Plavix, a heavily marketed anti-platelet agent that is widely prescribed to treat heart ailments. They found that while television advertising aimed at consumers did not actually increase the use of the drug, it may have been responsible for an increase in the reimbursement cost of Plavix for Medicaid patients, which of course is paid for by taxpayers. So not only does such advertising mislead consumers about the benefits and risks of many new drugs, as I've blogged about here, but it may waste precious taxpayer dollars.

Hmmm. Perhaps it's time for Congress to start thinking seriously about a ban on such counterproductive drug marketing tactics.

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