Drug adverts full of unsupported claims

We’re so used to drug companies burying data, spinning their results, ghostwriting papers, ‘financially incentivising’ doctors and designing biased studies, you’d just assume that if drug advert cited a research it would back up the claim being made for the medication. According to a new study, you’d often be wrong.

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s magazine ‘Chemistry World’ has an article on a new study of psychiatric drug ads in medical journals that found that over a third of the total claims made by drug ads are not actually supported by the studies they reference as evidence.

Taken on an advert by advert basis, the results are even more shocking:

42 out of the 53 ads (nearly 80 per cent) the researchers examined made at least one claim the team couldn’t substantiate. 27 made a claim that was not supported by the data source cited by the ad. A further 15 contained claims that couldn’t be verified by the team – usually because the ads provided no sources of data to back up their claims, or made claims that could not be verified because drug firms either failed to respond to the researchers’ requests for trial data, or refused to supply it.

Six out of nine pharmaceutical companies – including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Shire – did not reply to the researchers, while Wyeth refused to send trial data.

‘In these cases, we have to take their word [that their claims were supported by scientific evidence], which, personally, I would think is not a wise idea,’ says Spielmans. Only Janssen Pharmaceutica – makers of schizophrenia drug Risperdal (risperidone) – and medical device firm Cyberonics sent relevant studies to back up their claims.

You’d think after spending all that time and effort to design and run trials which consistently support the manufacturer’s product you could just reference your own studies, but apparently even that seems too excruciatingly transparent for the spin-happy industry.

Like the Fast Show Geezer, it seems they can’t even be polite enough to deceive us honestly.

Link to Chemistry World article (via Furious Seasons).
Link to abstract of scientific paper.

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