PHARMACY

FDA to examine efficacy of pharmaceutical advertising

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration plans to produce commercials for a pretend blood-pressure medicine to test whether images in ads distract attention from required safety warnings, according to Bloomberg. The agency wants to use the Internet to survey 2,400 consumers ages 40 and older on responses to the simulated ads.

Drugmakers spend $30 billion a year marketing products in the United States, triple what they did a decade ago, according to a study last year in the New England Journal of Medicine. Dozens of companies are warned each year about ads and marketing materials the FDA says mislead consumers that drugs are safer or work better than proven. The new study would show what techniques in commercials add to misperceptions.

The FDA intends to create a number of ads for the fictitious drug for high blood pressure using different images and text on the screen while a narrator reads the risk information. Some of the visuals will focus on the benefits of the drug, to see if that diverts attention from the safety warnings. Participants will be asked questions about the ads and their attitudes toward the medicine.

The study was first proposed by the agency last August as a survey of 1,020 consumers in shopping malls. The FDA made “extensive modifications to the study’s methodology” as a result of comments received on the proposal, including changing the mode of surveying and the type of questions asked.

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PHARMACY

AIDS expert calls for increased funding, testing

BY Drew Buono

MEXICO CITY Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said that the United States must immediately appropriate $200 million in order to test 10 million people for the deadly disease over the next three years.

“Without an accurate picture of the epidemic, vastly underestimated for the past ten years, we have missed countless opportunities to intervene with effective public health strategies,” noted Weinstein.

He further stated that, “Identifying all those who are infected and linking them to treatment, is the only way to break the chain of new infections and begin to address the nation’s runaway epidemic.”

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PHARMACY

Two M.D.s plead guilty to illegal $126 million Internet pharmacy

BY Drew Buono

WASHINGTON Two California doctors have pleaded guilty to conspiracy for their participation in an illegal Internet pharmacy business. The business, according to the Department of Justice, generated more than $126 million in revenue from sales.

The business, known as Affpower, involved Chandresh Shah and Gerald Morris, both M.D.s, who pleaded guilty back on July 8. The two, along with 16 other defendants were indicted on July 27.

According to the indictment, the Affpower enterprise sold controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs through numerous affiliated Web sites to customers who lacked prescriptions for the drugs from a personal physician. From August 2004 to June 2006, the Affpower enterprise allegedly received more than one million Internet orders for controlled and non-controlled prescription pharmaceuticals from customers in all 50 U.S. states.

Morris and Shah admitted Affpower enterprise doctors conducted no physical or mental examinations before issuing prescriptions, had no contact with customers and had no physician-patient relationship with any customer for whom the doctors prescribed drugs.

The trials are scheduled to take place in March and April.

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