Spin Doctors Prescribe the Wrong Medicine

"It's no easy job to save market share for expensive antihypertensive drugs when headlines read 'When Cheaper Is Also Better,'" writes Jeanne Lenzer. A major new study shows that the expensive drugs used to treat hypertension "were no better than a diuretic. In some instances they were not quite as safe - even though they were substantially more expensive." To minimize the health community's awareness of this result, drug companies used sneaky tactics such as sending key doctors off on a sightseeing junket to keep them from hearing about the study at a conference of the American College of Cardiology. The same thing may be happening with other drugs, according to Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. "A lot of newer drugs may not only not be better - they may be worse," she said. "Most drug companies don't want a head to head [study]. And the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] allows trials to run that are rigged where a drug is tested against placebo or a drug of the same class that is inadequately dosed, or they look at the wrong group of people or the wrong endpoints so their drug looks good." Adds Dr. Jerome Hoffman, professor of medicine and emergency medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, "we abdicate our responsibility, as well as risk the public health, if we allow proprietary companies, whose primary interest has to be selling their wares, to guard the public hen house."