Dr. Rubin, a renowned endocrinologist and author based in San Francisco, CA, has some strong opinions about the lack of ethics within drug companies, as evidenced by his last guest post here on conflict of interest. Today, in Part 2, he offers some tips on protecting yourself from exploitation.
In the first of two articles, I wrote about my increasing discouragement with the drug industry, particularly with respect to my field of diabetes. In this article I will offer advice to protect you against some of their practices. As an author of For Dummies books, I am used to providing lists of tens, the chapters found at the end of all For Dummies books, like my personal favorite in Diabetes For Dummies, “The Ten Commandments for Great Diabetes Care”. So here are ten things you can do to protect yourself:
1. Don’t even pay attention to drug advertisements on radio or television or in publications. The function of the ad is to sell something to you, not to inform you. The content will be all positive and negative information about the drug will be absent or downplayed. Write to your senator and congressman or woman to get drug ads banned.
2. Do not believe a claim about a medication just because it is quoted from a reputable medical journal like “The New England Journal of Medicine” or “The Journal of the American Medical Association.” Unfortunately, as I pointed out in the first article, these journals are the victims of false information about the authors and the research, just like you and me. And a lot of their revenue comes from drug ads.
3. Do not believe a claim about a medication because it is recommended by one of the great medical societies like the American Diabetes Association or the American Heart Association. These societies depend on revenue from drug companies to exist.
4. Do not believe celebrities who tell you how they have responded wonderfully to a given medication. Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golfer and a great role model but he knows nothing about medication. He’s far too busy practicing his golf game.
5. Do not let your children play video games or read books involving health and disease unless you are sure that the sponsor is not some drug company promoting their product. Do not give in to a child who insists he needs a particular drug.
6. Don’t accept drugs from your physician unless he assures you that the “sample” is the best available for your condition and that older, less expensive drugs are not better.
7. Wait a few years before trying a new drug or treatment unless the evidence is overwhelming that it is a major breakthrough. The bad effects of drugs often don’t appear until hundreds of thousands of people have taken them.
8. Remember that lifestyle change is the best medicine in Type 2 diabetes. Weight loss and exercise are worth more than any five drugs you can take. If more is needed, the old standard drugs are more than adequate to control your diabetes. If you are very obese and do not respond to lifestyle change and drugs, consider bariatric surgery to lose weight.
9. Make use of books like Diabetes For Dummies and others that you know are not supported by drug companies or device companies. The key is to avoid sources that have a conflict of interest.
10. Consider a subscription to The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, an “independent non-profit publication that offers unbiased critical evaluations of drugs.” You can find it on the Internet. It is like Consumer Reports for the drug industry.
Be skeptical and be your own advocate! It’s your life and your body that is on the line.
More from Dr. Rubin, and his series of health podcasts HERE.