False Negatives

  • by: |
  • 12/14/2006
The GAO report on DTC is so chock-full of half-truths that it is breathtaking to behold.

Consider this subhead (page 14 of the report), "Research Suggests DTC Advertising Increases Drug Spending and Utilization." Now to the casual observer (read here "politician" or "many journalists") that means the same thing as "DTC Advertising Increases the Cost of Drugs."

Not so.

It's a GAO solipsism.

A more accurate statement would be that DTC advertising drives patients to their doctors who, in turn, reach a diagnosis and then appropriately prescribe. That DTC helps patients and their physicians diagnose an existing medical condition earlier than might otherwise occur is a tremendously positive and potent public health service.

Is that statement in the GAO report? Nope.

Also, if more people are being appropriately prescribed more medicines -- then , indeed, we will as a nation be spending more on pharmaceuticals. But the GAO report makes this sound like a nepharious scheme. And don't be surprised if this theme is taken up by the usual suspects.

What's interesting is that the GAO doesn't report that, if you look at the "list" price of all the on-patent drugs within a given therapeutic category (which almost nobody pays) and then look at their individual advertising spends, what you will not find is a causal relationship. Oops.

And it's very disturbing that the GAO report didn't even consider FDA's research on DTC and physician prescribing patterns. What the FDA found was that physicians are NOT inappropriately prescribing medicines just because their patients ask for them.

But why worry about facts when you've got rhetoric on your side.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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