31 March 2008
The Vytorin debacle
Did you know that there are two major sources of disinformation about new drugs? The pharmaceutical company, and the ad agency. The pharmaceutical company can be represented by a pill, the ad agency by a man dressed like a pill. You've seen the Vytorin commercials. You may have questioned their taste in equating people with food according to skin color, hair style, mode of dress, etc., but you probably didn't think you had to question whether the product actually did anything for you. But those ads have been running for years now, and now we learn that experts are still testing the product, and some are convinced that it doesn't do what it claims: reduce the risk of heart disease. How were they able to advertise this stuff if they were still testing it? I know you have to pay attention to the disclaimers, but you might have thought that those were based on completed tests. That is apparently not the case. The story I've linked to quotes one expert to the effect that the country would have saved a lot of money if people hadn't been in such a hurry to adopt Vytorin. This sounds like somebody wanted to make their money fast before they were caught. There may still be disagreement over the drug's effectiveness, as you'll read, but common sense would suggest that, so long as disagreement exists, they shouldn't advertise the stuff! While this doesn't look like as bad a case as others in which genuine bad effects were discovered, it should still make us think twice about the ads we see and how we end up seeing them.