We have all looked at the newspaper and noted with interest that some new drug cures 75% of the people who take it.
Some of us may have even based our medical decisions around information acquired in this way, maybe by going to the doctor and asking for that particular drug.
Unfortunately, the study that said the drug was very effective might have been funded by the same people who made the drug–and the article might not have told you that.
From the article:
The mainstream media often fail to report when drug company funding is used for studies of medications, a new review found.
What’s more, there’s a tendency among both medical and mainstream reporters to use brand names, rather than generic names, when referring to specific medications.
And both of these factors work to skew public and medical opinion toward commercial interests, according to the review, published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
This, despite newspaper editors’ assertions to the contrary, the study authors found.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Hochman, argues that everyone should try to refer to drugs by their generic names rather than by their brand names–in order to separate specific drug companies from the discussion of what drug is best for a patient.
Everyone who gets information about drugs from the media should keep this in mind as we read.
It’s also a good idea to follow the seven-year rule — do not take a drug within its first seven years on the market. That is because the injuries and dangers from the drug often don’t become well known until it’s been on the market for some time. See Public Citizen’s Health Research Group web site for a good discussion of practical advice for patients in reducing their risks of harm from drugs.