PHARMA: Jim Edward’s on big Pharma’s need to communicate about risks

Brandweek’s Jim Edwards has a very sensible opinion piece (i.e. one I agree with) suggesting that big Pharma needs to start treating consumers like adults and tell them about the risks as well as the benefits of their products. I’ve always said that it’s in the the best long term interest of pharma companies and patients that the best understanding about their products is out there clearly.  And it’s apparent from  some of the research discussed by James Gardner on TCHB and over on John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog last week that the way risks are described in current product advertising has been glossed over using some quite clever psychological techniques.

But the overall concept that all drugs have effects, mostly good effects on bad conditions, but some bad for some people, needs to be reintroduced, so that patients and doctors can make up their own minds. Otherwise I think the end result will be a nanny-state hamstringing the pharma companies even more, to the chagrin of my libertarian friends. Whether big Pharma will adopt this pose remains open to question, even if the signs have been slightly more encouraging in the last few months.

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  1. I’ve been thinking for years that communities should support some sort of web site to show comparative pricing for products and services, physician/dentist fees, hospital fees, consumer reviews, etc. Part of the problem now is that it costs the consumer too much time to research, and they can’t get a straight answer to all the necessary questions with just a phone call. Consumers are therefore paying an “ignorance tax” every time they just randomly pick a name out of the phone book, and I think they’ve been willing to do this because the ignorance tax costs less than the time for research.
    There are all sorts of sites on the web dedicated to helping the consumer comparison shop for trivial stuff. I don’t see why the “entrepreneurial doctor” should be excluded from the same sort of consumer-centric comparisons.

  2. Actually not a bad idea BUT it would need full disclosure of all data from all the trials about the drugs. And that’s what’s been holed up between the FDA and the industry. Once that was out, I think a “consumer reports” type industry could develop.

  3. What are the impediments to an outside firm studying a drug’s downside (and maybe upside) and marketing that useful info to consumers? Does anyone more knowledgeable than me in this area see the legal/business barriers to entering or pioneering such an industry?