"New Realism" Redefined

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  • 03/04/2008
We strongly support the free and fair sharing of legitimate scientific information. That's why we're in favor of both the use of reprints as an important way to share cutting-edge medical information with physicians and the FDA's draft rule on the appropriate ways to do so.

That being said, some organizations (notably those who publish medical journals) aren't quite so clear as to what they believe. In fact there seems to be a lot of "do as I say not as I do" going on these days.

Speaking about how pharmaceutical companies use medical journal reprints, here's what Catherine DeAngelis, MD -- editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association -- said in yesterday's edition of the Newark Star-Ledger:

"I am really upset they would use these articles instead of seeking FDA approval for a new use," she said. "It's easier for them to take a drug they already have and get people to use it for something for which it has not been approved than it is to conduct new clinical trials."

Could this be the same JAMA that has a glossy sales brochure on the value of reprints -- many of which discuss off-label studies?

Some verbatim verbiage from the JAMA sales aid:

"Designed to be turn-key for rep delivery, mail, and distribution at conventions"

"Stimulates physician"

"Serves as an innovative, new offering for sales representatives and as a meeting premium"

The JAMA brochure goes on to quote (anonymously) some of its satisfied customers:

"I use them as a sales tool and patient education material."

"My accounts are refreshed by this type of promotional item because it shows that we have a genuine interest in patient needs and education."

JAMA also quotes research showing the efficacy of such reprints:

"38% of physicians cite pharmaceutical sales representatives as the most frequent source of providing patient education materials."

There's no qualifier about what articles can be reprinted. No caveat against reprints that include discussions of off-label usage -- however there is a strict rule that the full FDA PI must be included in every reprint package.

Nor is JAMA taking aesthetics for granted. The covers of these reprint programs can be customized from a selection of 10 Alfons Van Cleven paintings. My favorite is "Fall Landscape in Deer Grove" -- although for a reprint on Lyme Disease, perhaps "Winter Sunset" would be more appropriate.

Helpfully, the JAMA brochure points out that Van Cleven is an artist from the school known as "New Realism."

Yeah, New Realism. It must be Dr. DeAngelis' favorite.

There's a lot of that going around these days.

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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