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A clear example of marketing's influence on prescribers

Lung specialists have been influenced by marketing to prescribe new drugs that do not bring any benefits for patients with COPD.

In 2014, in the few months prior to the launch in France of two new drugs indicated in COPD, glycopyrronium (Seebri Breezhaler°), then glycopyrronium + indacaterol (Ultibro Breezhaler°), Novartis Pharma stepped up its marketing campaign aimed at pulmonologists.

This was revealed by a study carried out by the French health insurance system and based on the Transparence Santé database (an openly accessible database created by the French authorities in response to the Mediator° disaster), analysing the number of perks offered and links between Novartis Pharma and pulmonologists in the run-up to the launch of the two drugs.

Analyses by Prescrire and the French National Authority for Health (HAS) show that these drugs do not offer any patient benefits. However, within just one semester, they were quickly and widely prescribed. The insurance system attributes this speed of implementation to the firm's "well-planned sales strategy" designed to "promote prescription outside the strict therapeutic indications", at an additional cost to the health system estimated at 15 million euros in 2015.

According to the health insurance system, this is a common situation whereby new drugs launched on the market interfere with more appropriate subscribing. It stresses the need to counter  pharmaceutical companies' sales strategies, well before a drug is marketed.

Thanks to the Transparence Santé database, things have changed: now prescribers can no longer deny the influence of their connections with pharmaceutical companies on their prescriptions as this is now stated in black and white and is recorded in the health insurance system.

©Prescrire 1 July 2019

"COPD: respiratory physicians being influenced" Prescrire Int 2019; 28 (206): 194. (Pdf, free).

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