Just when you thought the pharmaceutical industry had used up every dirty trick in the book, it has been revealed that a ‘study’ of the epilepsy drug gabapentin (aka Neurontin) was never really intended to investigate the medication, but was primarily intended to get doctors to prescribe it more often.
A report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined documents uncovered in legal cases that show that a drug trial called ‘Study of Neurontin: Titrate to Effect, Profile of Safety’ (STEPS) was largely designed to involve doctors in a marketing programme that would appear like a scientific trial.
Actually, it was a scientific trial of a sort, but rather than studying the effect of the drug on patients, they were studying the effect of marketing on the doctors.
Parke-Davis sales representatives collected and recorded individual subject data. In a clear example of data tampering, they not only attended epilepsy patients’ office visits (under the guise of “shadowing” the clinician), but also actively promoted the use of Neurontin and blocked the use of competing medications, particularly lamotrigine (Lamictal), at those visits. They also rewarded participating investigators with free lunches and dinners.
Without informing either patients or physicians, the drug company’s marketing department monitored each investigator’s prescribing practices. It documented a 38% increase in prescriptions of Neurontin after investigators attended an introductory briefing, as well as a 10% increase in the average prescribed dose. It also compared prescribing patterns between study investigators and a control group of nonparticipating neurologists, and documented increased prescribing of Neurontin only among the study participants.
Big Pharma: the malware of medical science.