Stealth Drug Company Practices Market Illegal Off-Label Uses

One of the more popular and abominable trends that really emerged last year: Doctors prescribing off-label drugs for a host of unapproved or unlicensed uses. An interesting MSNBC report expands on an Annals of Internal Medicine review of the despicable stealth promotion of Pfizer's epilepsy drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

The Annals of Internal Medicine article entails of a review of some 8,000 pages of documents related to a 1996 whistleblower lawsuit involving former Neurontin producer Parke-Davis, that was settled by current owner Pfizer eight years later for $430 million. Although Pfizer admitted no wrongdoing before they bought Parke-Davis, the company fought hard to prevent all the papers filed in the case from going public, a request denied by a judge. (The papers can be reviewed online at the Drug Industry Document Archive maintained by the University of California, San Francisco.)

Among the tactics used to "sell" Neurontin:

  • Parke-Davis paying 14 doctors with honoraria and research grants anywhere from $10,250-$158,250 from 1993-97 to peddle their influence to promote Neurontin to their peers.
  • Medical education and communications committees (MECC) running continuing medical education courses funded by drug companies that are held in conjunction with other meetings.
  • Through MECC scams, those influential doctors or assistants conducting conference calls with other doctors, and drug company representatives monitoring those conversations.
  • Drug companies funding small trials of their own drugs that would be published only if the news was good.

The drug company cartel spends an obscene amount of cash -- an estimated $30,000 annually -- to promote their worthless drugs to every doctor in this country, amounting to some $18.5 billion. Unfortunately, let me assure you the mega-drug companies aren't throwing their money away, as they get a far better return on their marketing investments than you'd think.

Bad news like this for the evil marketing empire known as the pharmaceutical industry, I believe, brings us one step closer to a reversal of the conventional health care paradigm back to a traditional, safer and healthier form of medicine that relies on natural means to treat disease.

Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 145, No. 4, August 15, 2006: 284-293 Free Full Text Article

MSNBC August 15, 2006

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