Drug company salespeople provide family doctors with little
or no information about the harmful effects of medicines they are promoting, a
new study says.
Despite this lack of knowledge, doctors are likely to start
prescribing these drugs after visits from company representatives, according to
the findings from questionnaires completed by American, Canadian and French
The study revealed that salespeople failed to provide any
information about common or serious side effects or warn doctors about types of
patients who should not use the medicine in 59% of the promotions.
Left in the dark
"Laws in all three countries require sales
representatives to provide information on harm as well as benefits," lead
author Barbara Mintzes, of the University of British Columbia, said. "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 6% of the promotions,
even though 57% of the medicines involved in these visits came with US Food and
Drug Administration "black box" or Health Canada boxed warnings,
which are the strongest types of drug warnings in the two countries.
"We are very concerned that doctors and patients are
left in the dark and patient safety may be compromised," Mintzes said.
Doctors in France were more likely to be told about the
potential harmful effects of drugs during promotional visits than their
counterparts in Canada and the United States. This may be due to tighter
regulations for promotion of medicines in France, the researchers said.
The US Food and Drug Administration has more about drug safety issues.
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