Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The seeding of success

How Big Pharma opens the market to new expensive drugs

New medicines are often marketed on the basis of clinical trials of limited size and duration. So clinical studies of a medicine after it has reached the market (post-marketing studies) can be a useful way to get more data on its benefits or possible adverse effects.

But a study recently published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that post-marketing studies are also often used as ploys to get doctors in the habit of prescribing new medicines that may be much more costly while not being any more effective or safer than older ones.

The example taken in this study is that of insulin analogues. Until the 1980s, insulins used for the treatment of people with diabetes were obtained from animal pancreas. Then, they were genetically engineered to reproduce human insulin. And later still, insulin analogues, which are an altered form of human insulin, were promoted as more effective and safer – but marketed at a much higher cost.


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