When patients complain of adverse reactions, studies show doctors likely to dismiss them
In his latest speech, he says when patients complained of adverse reactions, studies showed doctors were likely to discount or dismiss them.
He was presenting his paper, entitled Pharmaceuticals: A Two-Tier Market for Producing ‘Lemons’ and Serious Harm, at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
So is he some crank? Er – no. He is professor of comparative health policy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey; Leverhulme Trust visiting professor at the University of Liverpool; writes in the BMJ, Lancet etc. and advises the UK Government. So his words aren’t hot air.
His latest speech in the US talking about drug companies spending “two to three times more on marketing than on research to persuade doctors to prescribe these new drugs”, is currently quoted on the Telegraph’s front page, in the Scotsman, etc.
Of course, Dr Richard Barker, director general of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, representing more than 70 UK drug companies, leaps to their defence. “This is a theory of information asymmetry based on what I would call the blindingly obvious, that doctors and regulators know more about medicines than the average patient”.
But – but – when I look back on my treatment, it is frightening how little some doctors knew about drugs and their side effects.
One of the drugs I was on caused carpal tunnel syndrome; months of problems when I was told to stop work because the doctors said I had RSI. Until a chance piece of research sent to me from an American hospital said this drug had been found to cause carpal tunnel syndrome. So I phoned the manufacturers – who sheepishly mentioned that this had been left off the accompanying leaflet. I made them put it on. No offer from them to compensate me for lost earnings, but at least I stopped blaming the lap top.
Then a professor of Dermatology told me that massive skin lesions that appeared overnight all over my body, were “due to your age”. Etc. etc. Isn’t it time the NHS took its head out of the sand? Their ostrich attitudes cause us untold grief, and according to Light could be doing us a lot of harm.
When I had more problems from drugs, a concerned medic said “is there anything I can do?” But when I suggested that he could talk to the drug company and get them to be more honest about side effects, he literally went white.
However, as Baker says, “Patients can, if they want, go and find the information out”. Yes, thank heavens for the internet, when we learn that we are not alone, even if doctors dismiss our horrible side effects with “I have never seen this before”.
There might be light at the end of the tunnel. Last year Sanofi, a major pharma company, asked me to talk to their staff at their AGM about side effects. I stressed that because of side effects over 60% of us come off drugs, which eventually would hit their profits. And asked that Pharma got together with patients to help us stay on the drugs.
Afterwards I was contacted by Sanofi and told that my session had had an 85% excellent rating – by far the highest.
So why not listen to patients, and when drugs are developed, train doctors what to expect, and how to deal with side effects? The French have already started to address this – isn’t it time we followed?