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Drug companies fighting protections for consumers

Drug companies inundate our airwaves with ads promising us relief and urging us to ask our Doctors for their drugs. Why? Because they know their ads create product demand and our overworked Doctors cannot possibly do independent research so they must rely on what drug companies tell them.  Just ask Merck who made Vioxx and spent more money on ads than any company in history on its way to billions in profits before massive heart attacks led to Vioxx’s removal from the market.

Merck hired sweet Dorothy Hamill, remember her Olympic heroics, to skate again into the hearts of elderly arthritis suffers to pitch Vioxx so people could feel good again. And by the tens of thousands they went to their Doctors and demanded Vioxx, and Merck’s cash registers rang and rang.

But neither Dorothy nor the ads ever told people what Merck already knew; there was an increased risk of heart attacks associated with Vioxx. And neither the TV ads nor the literature given to busy doctors told them about that risk either. Why?  Because no one would want to use a drug for pain that could result in a heart attack.

In a study of the effects of drug companies expenditures on direct-to-consumer advertising published in the New England Journal of Medicine on August 16, 2007 the authors found  “Evidence suggests that direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs increases pharmaceutical sales and both helps to avert under use of medicine and leads to potential overuse.”  The study noted that total spending on pharmaceutical promotion grew from $11.4 billion in 1996 to $29.9 billion in 2005, including a 330% increase on direct to consumer advertising. The drug industry knows more ads means more sales.

Drug companies do not want a proposed law that protects consumers and our doctors from the drugs companies’ deception.  AB 2690 (Krekorian) does not make it easier to establish the drug is defective, or that it caused you an injury, or that the manufacturer did not tell the whole truth. No you still have to prove all of that and a jury still has to decide if the risks of the drug outweigh its benefits, and if the drug caused you an injury.  None of that changes.

AB 2690 simply says the drug companies cannot escape responsibility by blaming the doctor for writing the prescription. AB 2690 simply requires a company to tell you the whole truth, like when its drug has been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks.
What’s wrong with telling the whole truth?

Drug companies want to continue to escape responsibility for a dangerous drug that proves to be harmful to us because our doctor is a “learned intermediary”, which translates to the “doctor has special knowledge and made the decision so blame them.” But our doctors do not have the time, resources, or skills to do research, clinical trials, or testing to evaluate safety, efficacy, and effects of a drug over time. Only the drug industry does.  Our doctors have to trust the drug companies to tell the whole truth, just like us. When we talk with our doctors they simply have no way of knowing what a drug company knows unless the drug company tells the whole truth.

But the drug industry would rather shift responsibility to our doctors and bring them into litigation instead of accepting their own responsibility.  AB 2690 protects consumers by requiring drug companies to tell the whole truth while protecting doctors from being blamed and thus unnecessarily brought into lawsuits.

The drug industry’s dirty little secret is that they need our doctors to rely on them to buy their drugs but they still want to be able to blame our doctors when their drugs injure us.

Drug companies should be required to tell the whole truth. How can anyone oppose that?


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