The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Pharma and media: a cascade of regulatory capture

Trudy Lieberman (relation of Joe?) of CJR covers in a useful 4,500 word piece the noxious conflicts of interest that warp coverage of pharmaceutical matters.

Essentially, pharma has immense influence over the way the FDA regulates the industry; and both the industry and the FDA have a similar influence over the media coverage of both.

That much, I think we could have guessed. Lieberman does a nice job in revealing how some of the forces have their effect, and - this is quite essential - gives examples with names for following up.

Also admirable, given the pressures she's writing about, is the number of on-the-record quotes that she's garnered.

It's not black and white: but just as the fact that the top papers run pieces on A1 that really hurt the Administration doesn't wash away the positive effect of the totality of coverage, so the fact that media outlets will from time to time run critical stories, including some investigations, on the drug industry doesn't hurt the sterling service the industry gets overall.

The TV network take of pharma ad spend is $1.5 billion a year [1]. (And the operating earnings of their news divisions is? Less, I'd imagine.)

Another driver of the need for publicity by the bucketload is that 77% of products approved are me-too drugs. Somehow, companies have to manufacture selling points that aren't there: same sausage, but a superior sizzle!

Meanwhile, it's All Rove, All the Time on the lefty blogs [2].

All right, Far Too Much of the Time...

  1. The total spend has gone through the roof because of Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertising. This BMJ piece would be a place to start research.

  2. The major revision in the FDA's legislative framework came in the FDA Modernization Act of 1997, S 830, PL 105-115. The voting record shows hardly any opposition - but it went to a conference. Whether this is in the same class as the FCC deregulation of 1996, I couldn't say. But it was more than just GOP and DLC that voted for the FDA bill.


A 1998 speech, with links, from a consumer group honcho outlines the effect on consumers of the 1997 FDA Act.

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