Doctors not informed of harmful effects of medicines during sales visits

April 10, 2013
A new UBC study compares the amount of information about a medicine's health benefits and harmful effects given to a family physician during a visit from pharmaceutical sales representatives in Canada, the U.S. and France. (Figure: UBC)

The majority of family doctors receive little or no information about harmful effects of medicines when visited by drug company representatives, according to an international study involving Canadian, U.S. and French physicians.

Yet the same doctors indicated that they were likely to start prescribing these drugs, consistent with previous research that shows prescribing behaviour is influenced by pharmaceutical promotion.

The study, which had doctors fill out questionnaires about each promoted medicine following sales visits, was published online today in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. It shows that failed to provide any information about common or serious side effects and the type of patients who should not use the medicine in 59 per cent of the promotions. In Vancouver and Montreal, no potential harms were mentioned for 66 per cent of promoted medicines.

"Laws in all three countries require sales representatives to provide information on harm as well as benefits," says lead author Barbara Mintzes of the University of British Columbia. "But no one is monitoring these visits and there are next to no sanctions for misleading or inaccurate promotion."

Serious risks were mentioned in only six percent of the promotions, even though 57 per cent of the medications involved in these visits came with US "black box" or Health Canada boxed warnings – the strongest drug warning that can be issued by both countries.

"We are very concerned that doctors and patients are left in the dark and patient safety may be compromised," says Mintzes, an expert on in UBC's School of Population and Public Health.

Doctors in Toulouse were more likely to be told of a harmful effect in a promotional visit, compared to doctors in Canada and the U.S., according to the study. Researchers suggested that this may reflect stricter for promotion of medicines in France.

Explore further: Survey shows medical students have frequent interactions with pharmaceutical companies

Related Stories

Survey shows medical students have frequent interactions with pharmaceutical companies

February 26, 2013
A first-of-its kind national survey of medical students and residents finds that despite recent efforts by medical schools and academic medical centers to restrict access of pharmaceutical sales representatives to medical ...

Inspector highlights psych drug use among elderly

November 30, 2011
(AP) -- Government inspectors will tell lawmakers Wednesday that the Medicare health plan needs to do more to stop doctors from prescribing powerful psychiatric drugs to nursing home patients with dementia, an unapproved ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests ending opioid epidemic will take years

July 20, 2017
The question of how to stem the nation's opioid epidemic now has a major detailed response. A new study chaired by University of Virginia School of Law Professor Richard Bonnie provides extensive recommendations for curbing ...

Team-based model reduces prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent

July 17, 2017
A new, team-based, primary care model is decreasing prescription opioid use among patients with chronic pain by 40 percent, according to a new study out of Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, which ...

Private clinics' peddling of unproven stem cell treatments is unsafe and unethical

July 7, 2017
Stem cell science is an area of medical research that continues to offer great promise. But as this week's paper in Science Translational Medicine highlights, a growing number of clinics around the globe, including in Australia, ...

Popular heartburn drugs linked to higher death risk

July 4, 2017
Popular heartburn drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been linked to a variety of health problems, including serious kidney damage, bone fractures and dementia. Now, a new study from Washington University School ...

Most reproductive-age women using opioids also use another substance

June 30, 2017
The majority of reproductive-age and pregnant women who use opioids for non-medical purposes also use at least one other substance, ranging from nicotine or alcohol to cocaine, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate ...

At-risk chronic pain patients taper opioids successfully with psychological tools

June 28, 2017
Psychological support and new coping skills are helping patients at high risk of developing chronic pain and long-term, high-dose opioid use taper their opioids and rebuild their lives with activities that are meaningful ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.