DTC² and Vytorin

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  • 01/21/2008
Should Vytorin continue to advertise? What impact, if any, will this question have on the larger issue of DTC regulation? These and other questions are discussed in a worthwhile article in this week’s edition of Advertising Age.

Here’s a link to the article:


And a few paragraphs to whet your appetite:

"Unlike Merck's Vioxx, which in 2004 was found to contribute to heart attacks in some patients and was pulled off the market, Vytorin is safe and can still be sold. It does, the study found, reduce the levels of LDL in patients. It just doesn't, according to the study, live up to its claim of reducing plaque build-up. That's why Peter Pitts, a former associate commissioner for the FDA and now the president of New York-based Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, says this won't be the death knell for DTC that some think it is.

Just because a congressman sneezes doesn't mean pharmaceutical companies will catch a cold, Mr. Pitts said. DTC is heavily regulated and the question becomes 'What does the study tell us and how is it relevant to DTC?' It's a small study and a study based on certain genotypes. If you're currently on Vytorin, you don't have to stop taking it.

But even Mr. Pitts, a strong advocate for DTC, admits drug companies need an image boost. The industry should absolutely explain to the general population where drugs come from and how they're made," he said. “It's going to be hard. It's going to be a long-term proposition. But it's important for the viability of its image with consumers, not to mention the people on Capitol Hill."

That being said, it’s good news that, in yesterday’s edition of the New York Times (and elsewhere) there was a Vytorin ad that tried to put the current study into perspective.

Nice start – but more needs to be done. Vioxx was a missed opportunity to talk (soberly and sensibly) about safety (risk/benefit). Let’s not let Vytorin be a missed opportunity to talk about what clinical trials can tell us – and what they cannot.

This is an important teaching moment -- and can show the potency of DTC advertising and, more broadly, DTC² (direct to consumer communications) as a way to educate the public (yes -- politicians too) about the urgency of personalized medicine and 21st century clinical trial design.

Tough and complicated topics? You bet. But (as Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own) "If it was easy, anyone could do it."

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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