Health News Review

Make sure you see the onslide slideshow accompanying this article about how the FDA is cracking down on drug companies for ads that underplay serious risks.

The slideshow gives you details on the ad or promotional campaign behind the drug and includes copies of the warning letters the FDA sent to the companies responsible for the false promotions. The FDA slaps are for things like omitting or minimizing side effects, implying that the drug could be used for something for which it hasn’t been approved, or exaggerating effectiveness claims.

The ten products promoted in the ads are these:

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• Latisse eyelash thickening drug – starring actress Brooke Shields
• Cymbalta – depression and pain drug
• Treximent – migraine
• hormone-releasing IUD Mirena
• Depakote ER for bipolar disorder
• Ertaczo – cream for foot fungus
• Fosrenol – kidney failure drug
• Visipaque – used in heart imaging procedures.
• Dacogen – for certain rare blood cell disorders and blood cancers.
• Kaletra – HIV drug – with ads featuring former NBA star Magic Johnson

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Excerpt from the article:

“It’s almost impossible for the public to actually parse the ads and come to their own independent conclusions,” says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen, a fierce critic of drug ads.

But Nissen is suspicious of most drugs that are advertised because he thinks that the marketing campaigns distract and mislead consumers. His advice: avoid the most heavily advertised drugs and stick to generics.

How can you avoid getting misled by drug ads? One way is to skip over the glowing patient testimonials and seek hard data about the medication’s risks and how it performed in clinical trials. Every drug Web site also includes a link to the drug’s official FDA label (the link usually says something like “Full Prescribing Information.”) It’s heavy reading, and many doctors don’t even bother to do it. But it will have definitive, unvarnished information on how effective the drug was in its clinical trials and exactly what all the side effects were.

Great piece. Terrific online slideshow. I don’t know how they limited themselves to just ten misleading drug ads.

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NOMNATED FOR 2009 BEST MEDICAL BLOG

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Comments

Paul Scott posted on February 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

It’s an even braver story once you consider that ads like these are bread and butter for large consumer magazines like Forbes.