The pharmaceutical industry spends between $30 and $57 billion annually on marketing its drugs (including samples), the majority spent on marketing to physicians and other prescribers. Studies show that the industry influences prescribing through its use of gifts and payments to prescribers and through its role in financing continuing education for doctors and nurses. The industry also purchases prescription records and physician profiles that allow sales representatives to track individual doctors’ prescribing history in order to tailor sales strategies. Such marketing can increase costs by swinging prescribing toward newer, more expensive and less-tested drugs. It also provides doctors and patients with inaccurate or incomplete information about a drug’s risks, side effects and efficacy, and undermines medical professionalism with perceived and actual conflicts of interest.
Marketing can also harm patients by encouraging doctors to prescribe the newest, least-tested drugs before sometimes lethal side-effects are known. For instance, Vioxx, which worked no better ibuprofen for 95 percent of all patients, became a highly profitable drug because of Merck’s aggressive marketing. To increase its sales, Merck launched a massive advertising campaign that targeted doctors and patients. In 2003 alone, Merck spent nearly $500 million in promotions to doctors and $78 million in direct-to-consumer advertising, and pulled in 3 times that in sales. By 2000, clinical trial data showed that Vioxx caused a five-fold increase in the risk of heart attack or stroke. But Merck continued to use sophisticated techniques to influence physicians, such as company- (“ghost”) written journal articles and seeding trials - unnecessary studies to accustom physicians and patients to using the drug. As a result, more than 20 million people took Vioxx before it was withdrawn from the market in 2004.
Community Catalyst works with state and federal policymakers, regulators, and academic medical centers to curb the inappropriate influence of pharmaceutical marketing on prescribing. In collaboration with the Pew Prescription Project, Community Catalyst supported the federal campaign to pass the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires prescription drug and medical device companies to report payments to physicians into a publicly searchable online database. We also collaborated with the Project and the American Medical Student Association on its PharmFree Scorecard, which assesses conflict-of-interest policies at all U.S. medical schools.
In addition, our Prescription Access Litigation project has brought several class action lawsuits to challenge deceptive practices by the pharmaceutical industry. These include withholding known risks from advertising materials targeting consumers and physicians, overstating the benefits of a prescription drug, and promoting the drugs for unapproved uses in violation of federal law.
- October 24, 2011 Letter to Secretary Sebelius Regarding Disclosure of Industry Payment to Physicians and Teaching Hospitals Under the Physician Payments Sunshine Provision, manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics or medical supplies, or their subsidiaries that sell these products in the United States, must report to Health and Human Services certain payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals.
- June 24, 2011 Community Catalyst Statement on Supreme Court Decision Striking Down Vermont Law Protecting Prescription Records
- March 02, 2011 Amicus Brief, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, in Support of Vermont Law Banning Data Mining
- August 06, 2009 Consumer Survey
- March 16, 2009 Sample Prescription Medications Fact Sheet
- February 12, 2009 Why Small Gifts Matter Fact Sheet
- February 01, 2009 The Case for Disclosure
- January 20, 2009 Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing Fact Sheet
- December 18, 2008 Non-physician Prescribers and Pharmaceutical Industry Interactions
- November 19, 2008 Prescription Data Mining Fact Sheet
- September 12, 2008 Regulating Industry Payments to Physicians: Identifying & Minimizing Conflicts Of Interest: Fact Sheet
- July 11, 2008 PhRMA Marketing Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals: Old vs. New
- June 24, 2008 Data Mining Amicus Curiae: IMS Health v. Sorrell
- May 07, 2008 Data Mining and Medicaid Fact Sheet
- March 26, 2008 Advancing Efficient Management and Purchasing of Prescription Drugs
- August 31, 2007 The Constitutional Battle over State Regulation of Data Mining
- July 07, 2007 Data Mining Amicus Curiae: IMS Health v. Ayotte
- March 23, 2010 The Physician Payments Sunshine Act Fact Sheet
- March 25, 2010 Colorado Prescription Coalition Seeks Pharma Marketing Reforms
- February 12, 2009 Addressing Cost and Quality: The Physician Payments Sunshine Act
- February 06, 2009 Prescription Record Privacy Act Model Bill
- December 03, 2008 Prescriber Profiling Testimony in Maryland, Dec. 2008
- January 18, 2008 Prescription Drug and Medical Device Marketing Restrictions and Disclosure Act Model Legislation
- June 23, 2011 NLARx Press Release: Supreme Court Overturns Vermont Prescription Records Privacy Law in Sorrell v. IMS Health
- February 09, 2011 Project on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
- February 09, 2011 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard
- February 09, 2011 National Physicians Alliance
- February 09, 2011 National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices
- February 09, 2011 Prescription Policy Choices