E-DRUG: Choice: "Get rid of pharma reps", + reaction Medicines Australia
Posted 21 July 2008
Australian consumers' organisation Choice has stepped up its campaign to
curb pharmaceutical promotion with a letter to Health Minister Roxon and
a report that proposes companies no longer employ pharmaceutical reps.
In a report released last week, Choice continued to push the line that
"There is strong evidence to indicate that pharmaceutical promotion is
not in the best interests of consumers."
It proposed that representatives "no longer be employed by
pharmaceutical companies" but work for an "independent body".
See, Pushing Pills report www.choice.com.au/files/f133143.pdf
Health Policy Officer, Michael Johnston, said Choice had written to Ms
Roxon in recent weeks proposing that funding for the National
Prescribing Service be massively increased so that it alone could
deliver information about medicines.
"It is not appropriate for this information to come from pharmaceutical
companies," the report - entitled Pushing Pills - said. "We need
independent sources of information which give medical practitioners
information about the full range of treatments for a condition based on
the best available evidence."
Mr Johnston said government tax revenue was Choice's preferred option
for funding an information body. "This could be offset by a further
reduction in PBS prices," he said.
Other possibilities included a levy on pharma companies tied to their
turnover or a "pooled marketing fund" supported by companies
contributing up to 35% of their revenue.
The Pushing Pills report tallied ads for drugs in the GP weeklies,
Australian Doctor and Medical Observer, between 1 July 2005 and 30 June
2006. It found that Coversyl (perindopril arginine, Servier), Norvasc
(amlodipine, Pfizer), Mobic (meloxicam, Boehringer Ingelheim), Lipitor
(atorvastatin, Pfizer) and Seretide (fluticasone/salmeterol) were the
top five most advertised drugs.
Pfizer, sanofi-aventis, AstraZeneca, Merck Sharp & Dohme and Boehringer
Ingelheim were the five top advertisers.
The report chose hypertension medications as a case study. It found 93%
of advertisements aimed at GPs for high-blood pressure medicines were
for newer medicines still under patent, which, it said "are not
necessarily more effective than older treatments".
"Consumers should feel confident their doctor is advising them on the
best treatment for their condition, not prescribing the drug that has
been most heavily promoted because it's still under patent," Mr Johnston
Medicines Australia CEO, Ian Chalmers, rejected the call for
pharmaceutical reps to be phased out. "Research has shown that doctors
prefer to get the latest information about medicines from a variety of
sources and value pharmaceutical companies as one of those sources.
No-one knows more about medicines than the people who make them."
Choice report 'irresponsible': Medicines Australia
Posted 21 July 2008
The Choice Pushing Pills report is irresponsible and misleading,
Medicines Australia CEO, Ian Chalmers has said.
The report attracted wide publicity last week when it renewed the
consumer organisation's attack on pharmaceutical industry product
promotion to GPs.
It focused on advertising in GP weekly publications and, in particular,
on treatments for hypertension, claiming that the off-patent
thiazide-like diruetic, chlorthalidone, was "the preferred treatment for
many with high blood pressure" but was "not advertised and is rarely
prescribed in Australia".
It contrasted this with high prescribing of the frequently advertised
hypertension treatment, Servier's Coversyl (perindopril arginine).
Choice's claim that chlorthalidone is the preferred treatment for
hypertension was based on recommendations by Therapeutic Guidelines
Australia which it said were supported by the ALLHAT study.
Mr Chalmers said the Pushing Pills report was "fundamentally flawed
because it is based on 2003 therapeutic guidelines for hypertension
which are out of date".
"Heart Foundation guidelines for hypertension say that any of the five
available drug groups [ACE inhibitors, ARBs, CCBs, beta blockers and
diuretics] can be used first line for newly diagnosed patients. This
guidance was re-evaluated earlier this year and has been adopted by the
National Prescribing Service," he said.
"It may suit Choice's agenda to rely on an out-dated standard rather
than the correct one but it's very disappointing and irresponsible
because it has the potential to mislead consumers," Mr Chalmers concluded.
Health Policy Officer for Choice, Michael Johnston, said: "Our view is
that Therapeutic Guidelines is still one of the best sources of
independent drug information and that it is still consistent with the
"We are aware of the Heart Foundation guidelines. If their view is that
any of the five drug groups can be used then our view is that if all are
equally effective the cheapest should be preferred," Mr Johnston said.
He added that chlorthalidone was "just one example" of a situation in
which a generic was elbowed out by intensively advertised patented drugs
which were more expensive despite it being equally effective.