Protecting Yourself from the Dangers of New Diabetes Drugs

By Alan L. Rubin

In an effort to instantly gratify their stockholders and find the next “billion dollar drug,” drug companies seem to have lost sight of their major goal, which is to find drugs that are both effective and safe for the treatment of diabetes. Although some drug companies continue to pursue this goal, many of them are guilty of the following misconduct:

  • Withholding studies that they have paid for that show that their drugs are not as effective as they claim. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2008 showed that the companies that make antidepressants allowed 94 percent of positive studies to be printed but only 14 percent of negative studies. Even the positive studies, if carefully evaluated, weren’t nearly as positive as the companies claimed. This behavior isn’t limited to companies that make antidepressants.

  • Strongly advertising the one study that shows positive effects when many others show negative effects.

  • Withholding studies that indicate their drugs may have dangerous side effects.

  • Promoting their drugs for purposes that are not permitted by the FDA.

  • Advertising their drugs as though they are the best or only treatment when older and better treatments exist.

  • Providing catered lunches and samples to doctors to convince them to use their drugs. A basic conflict of interest exists in the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

  • Paying large sums of money to private doctors to do “studies” of their drugs that rarely find negative things about the drugs.

  • Paying rebates to private doctors to use their drugs, whether or not they are the best choice for the patient.

These problems are not limited to doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. Any time “advisors” are also salespeople, they advise the purchase of what they sell. But just because this practice takes place in every industry doesn’t make it right. And in the medical industry, it’s often a matter of life or death.

What steps can you take to avoid the dangers outlined above? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Don’t ask your doctor to prescribe new drugs that are heavily promoted by advertising. Too few people have used them and too little time has passed to truly know the potential of these new drugs.

  • Don’t take samples from your doctor. Drug companies use samples to get you and your doctor hooked on their drug.

  • Don’t ask for a drug just because a key organization like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, the Endocrine Society, or others promotes the drug. These organizations have become big and fat from the money provided by those drug companies.

  • Do wait several years before trying a new drug. The drugs that are currently available are more than adequate to control your blood glucose, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol if you take them as prescribed.