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Drug Company Reps Don't Tell Docs Enough About Side Effects: Survey

Many U.S., Canadian and French physicians prescribed the promoted meds anyway

WEDNESDAY, April 10, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- 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 doctors.

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 percent of the promotions.

"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 in a university news release. "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 percent of the promotions, even though 57 percent of the medicines involved in these visits came with U.S. 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 study was published online April 10 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about drug safety issues (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm107846.htm ).

SOURCE: University of British Columbia, news release, April 10, 2013