An unpublished letter by drugwonks commentator Ben Zycher. A loss to Washington Post readers — but a drugwonks.com bonus!
To the Editor of the Washington Post,
Shankar Vedantum’s article (“Comparison of Schizophrenia Drugs Often Favors Firm Funding Study,” April 12) misses the central reason that comparative drug tests funded by a given pharmaceutical producer usually report superiority for that producer’s drugs. The research and development process for new drugs aims to improve upon the clinical experience of existing treatments, which always are weak for some patients and for some of the many dimensions of such disorders as schizophrenia. To the extent that the research and development process is successful, studies conducted to determine whether or not the new treatments offer improvement for some patients in terms of some symptoms will find, quite honestly, that they do indeed.
Moreover, no advertising or promotion of such new drugs may proceed until the data are reviewed and approved by the FDA. And the argument of some that studies funded by government systematically will yield unbiased comparisons is incorrect: The government has powerful incentives to promote certain (older) drugs, the use of which will reduce budget pressures. Pharmaceutical producers have profit incentives not to mislead themselves, and doctors and patients have strong reasons to find the most effective treatments.