Medical investigative journalist Jeanne Lenzer has written a piece for the Website Reporting on Health, warning consumers about the stealth advertising techniques that the healthcare industry frequently uses to promote its products.
According to Lenzer, public relations professionals representing the industry frequently pay physicians or other medical professionals to endorse products or services, under the guise of making an independent and unconditional recommendation.
Other tactics include paying professional or patient advocacy groups to make a certain endorsement, and even creating such groups, otherwise known as “astroturfing” – a reference to artificial grassroots.
Lenzer has had experience uncovering that kind of practice. She co-authored an investigative piece that ran in January’s edition of The Washington Monthly concerning a panel of experts who met in December advise the FDA about the compound drospirenone. The German corporation Bayer uses the synthetic hormone as a component in the birth control pills Yasmin, Yaz, Beyaz, and Ocella.
The committee members voted 21-5 that the information about the risks of the pills provided to doctors and patients was inadequate. Then they voted 15-11 that the benefits outweigh the risks overall, and the pills should stay on the market.
But Lenzer’s investigation found that at least four of the members had either done work for the drugs’ manufacturers or licensees or received research funding from them, and the FDA failed to make those ties public.
Further information about the FDA vote is available here: http://www.lopezmchugh.com/2012/01/20/more-details-about-the-fda-advisory-committee-vote-on-yaz-majority-have-concerns/index.html
See the Reporting on Health piece here: http://www.reportingonhealth.org/resources/lessons/stealth-marketing
See The Washington Monthly piece here: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2012/01/the_yaz_men_members_of_fda_pan034651.php