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October 2, 2002
Voluntary. . .For Now
HHS has fired a warning shot across the bow of the drug industry. These draft guidelines don't have the force of law behind them (yet,) but the implication seems clear: shape up, or they will.
This election cycle has seen some grandstanding against the drug companies (and without foreign policy intruding, there would surely have been more.) The industry has to realize that the political wind is against it these days. Nobody's in the mood to hear some more stories about a powerful industry throwing money around to influence people.
I feel a bit odd saying this, but I wouldn't mind seeing some of the restrictions made mandatory, with some vigorous enforcement. It would defuse the marketing arms race in the industry a bit, and it's for sure that nothing else will. Companies will, of course, act in their own interests - it's silly to expect them not to. And as things are set up, it's in their interest to market as aggressively as possible. There aren't that many wonderful new drugs to sell these days, which puts increasing pressure on both the existing portfolio and on anything new that might come up.
I can go on like this because marketing types and drug-discovery types don't spend much time interacting, and tend to regard each other as alien beings. To us, although we realize the value of advertising, some of the marketing campaigns seem in danger of tipping the balance to where they start to eat into the potential profits of the drugs - a diminishing-returns situation. To them, research seems like the black-hole cost center that untold zillions of dollars go spiraling into - and for what? Where's something that they can sell?
Maybe some of the blogger physicians (you, and you, and you, for starters!) can report over the next few weeks or months if they're noticing anything different.
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