Health News Review

On his bioethics seminar’s “Fear and Loathing in Bioethics” blog, Dr. Carl Elliott has commented on – first – the announcement of applications for $100,000 Pfizer Fellowships in Bioethics. This is a screenshot from the Fear & Loathing blog:

Pfizer March 21 Elliott.jpg

And here’s a screenshot from the blog post on the awarding of this year’s $100,000 Pfizer Fellowships in Bioethics:

Pfizer April 20 Elliott.jpg

Also, in a followup to a post last week regarding Elliott’s appearance at a conference of people interested in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising – an appearance that was criticized by one blogger – here’s a quite different perspective on that appearance by another blogger.

Excerpt from “Do We Wear The Black Hat?” by Bob Ehrlich, CEO, DTC Perspectives, Inc.:

“Last week we had someone who refused any customary speaker fees, and that made me wonder whether we were dealing with a true believer in the evil of drug companies. Carl Elliott is an ethics professor who recently wrote a book on the seamy side of drug research called White Coat Black Hat. Dr. Elliott had everyone in stunned silence as he told stories of unscrupulous doctors who did clinical studies for drug companies. Few of us would ever sign up for those Phase 1 studies which measure human safety and dosing. In fact, as Dr. Elliott describes, those that do participate are very poor, or college students, or the homeless and mostly uninsured. They make some decent money ingesting pills that no human has ever swallowed before, and they take some wildly speculative doses to establish safe limits.

Needless to say that system encourages some doctors to do some unsavory things to get subjects. Drug companies pay them well to conduct these expensive studies. Sometimes or quite often says Dr. Elliott they push naive subjects into trials. Many of these trials are conducted off shore where people are more desperate for money. In Dr. Elliott’s expose, this is a big problem ethically.

I hope the drug company researchers read his book and investigate whether there is truth to the criticisms. I was and would still be proud to be a marketer of prescription drugs. Frankly though I never thought much about the clinical studies and those brave souls who were willing to test them. As a marketer we are encouraging people to ask their doctor for that advertised drug. That drug was tested on thousands of people and we all must hope and expect those studies were done ethically. Dr. Elliott was one of the first anti-industry DTC National speakers to say something really new and highly provocative. For that I am thankful because real people are risking their health to test our drugs and we owe them a fair deal.

As consumer marketers we are the last line of communication to those consumers whose trust we desperately need. If Dr. Elliott is correct or even partially correct then some corporate soul searching is in order.”

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