PHARMACY

FDA panel calls for study on effects of DTC ads on consumers

BY Drew Buono

ROCKVILLE, Md. A Food and Drug Administration panel has said that direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs need to be clear and direct and that the government needs to study the effects the ads have on customer behavior, especially the elderly and minorities, according to Reuters.

Data shows that advertisements for drugs prompt people to see their doctors, but it is not clear if consumers understand potential benefits and risks of the drugs being promoted by pharmaceutical companies.

Panelist Michael Goldstein, associate director at the nonprofit group the Institute for Healthcare Communication, told the FDA that it should find ways to tackle “the woefully inadequate evidence we have about what … direct-to-consumer advertising is actually doing.”

Legislation that took effect in March allows the FDA to ask to review ads before the public sees them and to impose fines if an ad is misleading. It also allowed the FDA to study the effect of such advertising on the public.

U.S. lawmakers are investigating whether drug companies use marketing tricks to mislead consumers, especially through television commercials. Researchers have said drug companies use gimmicks such as small type, fast speech and flashy graphics to emphasize benefits and downplay risks.

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PHARMACY

Chinese companies set to enter generic market

BY Drew Buono

LONDON Chinese drug manufacturing companies are now looking to get into manufacturing generic drugs, according to Reuters. The country is already the world’s biggest producer of active pharmaceutical ingredients and is now aiming at producing finished drug products for sale in the U.S., Europe and other key markets.

IMS Health said last year’s first approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a Chinese generic—a copy of AIDS drug nevirapine—was a sign of things to come. Now, at least 10 other Chinese companies are set to follow suit with other generic products, according to IMS.

The result will be increased competition in a generic drugs industry that is already struggling with tumbling prices. The rise of Chinese generic drugmakers is expected to mirror that of Indian firms like Ranbaxy Laboratories, which also started out as an API supplier but moved into finished generic medicines a decade ago.

The problem, though, according to IMS, is safety issues involving the drugs. The most noticeable problem, the tainted blood thinner heparin that was produced in China and then created a health scare across the globe.

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Pfizer supports transparency initiative by listing Q1 grants

BY Drew Buono

NEW YORK Following in line of such other pharmaceutical companies as Eli Lilly, Pfizer has begun listing its U.S. medical, scientific and patient organization grants and charitable contributions made in the first quarter of 2008, as part of a mission to increase company transparency.

Of a total $9.97 million in grants and charitable contributions reported for the first quarter of 2008, the largest grant, $3,420,318, was made to the California Academy of Family Physicians in March for a three-year national health care professional education campaign to reduce the number of U.S. smokers. This grant was distributed among nine partner organizations across the country.

Other grants include $500,000 to Family Health International for malaria patient education and treatment, and $237,500 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for its clinical investigator training program with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“We want to bring greater transparency to the way we partner with leading medical, scientific and patient organizations,” said Jeffrey Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer. “Detailing these grants and charitable contributions is an important part of our ongoing transparency drive.”

The company plans on updating its information each quarter.

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