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Posted: March 20, 2006

Data in Drug Promotional Brochures Can Be Inaccurate


Brochures produced by pharmaceutical companies to promote drugs to doctors don’t always present accurate data. That’s what researchers at UNT Health Science Center discovered.

In an article published in the open access journal BMC Family Practice, Roberto Cardarelli, DO, MPH, FAAFP, assistant professor of family medicine, and John C. Licciardone, DO, MS, MBA, professor and director of clinical research for the Osteopathic Research Center at the health science center, report their findings.

Drs. Cardarelli, Licciardone and Lockwood G. Taylor discuss the results of their study of 20 brochures from 20 different drug companies in the article, “A cross-sectional evidence-based review of pharmaceutical promotional marketing brochures and their underlying studies: Is what they tell us important and true?”

The researchers found that three out of 20 promotional brochures studied contained data that was different from the original study on the effects of the drug. Although the differences were small, the authors of the study recommend that doctors review original studies instead of changing their drug prescribing behavior based on promotional brochures.

“Further research is needed in this area,” Dr. Cardarelli said. “The next step is to better understand and determine if pharmaceutical promotional products change a physician’s prescribing habits. More importantly, if it does, we must ensure that the information is accurate.”

Dr. Cardarelli and his colleagues asked physicians in five clinics to collect the promotional brochures that they had received from pharmaceutical companies. Twenty brochures representing 20 different drugs were collected from October to December 2004, and the original corresponding studies were obtained. Two reviewers compared the content of each brochure with the data presented in the original study.

“The research and service that pharmaceutical companies provide is imperative in the development of new medications that treat and cure disease,” Dr. Cardarelli said. “As we found, the quality of most studies was excellent. Nonetheless, we must be aware that ethical obligations and business are two different things. We must ensure that one does not influence the other.”

The study results show that for three of the brochures studied, the data presented on the brochure differed from the results of the underlying study. Of the 20 identified studies, 15 studies were rated as valid and 16 had been funded by the pharmaceutical company producing the drug.

The article can be found in BMC Family Practice’s latest edition at http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcfampract/ BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing open access to peer-reviewed biological and medical research. BioMed Central currently publishes more than 140 journals across biology and medicine. In addition to open-access original research, BioMed Central also publishes reviews, commentaries and other non-original-research content.

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Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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