Industry Should Work to Improve Risk Awareness, DTC Ads, Execs Say
Pharmaceutical firms need to do a better job of helping the public understand drug risks, according to pharmaceutical executives.
"Maybe we just haven't done a good enough job of really talking about and educating the public that there is no such thing as a risk-free medicine," said Joseph Feczko, president of worldwide development and chief medical officer at Pfizer. "If a drug is pharmacologically active, it is going to have side effects. We don't seem to be getting that message across," Feczko said at the annual meeting of Research!America, a nonprofit medical research advocacy group.
Addressing recent drug safety controversies, Feczko said slowing down the drug approval process at the FDA wouldn't help ensure safety, but would rather hurt innovation. What is needed is better postmarketing surveillance, he said. "We have a terrible system right now," Feczko said of the FDA's existing adverse event reporting system.
Public ignorance about drug risks may be tied, in part, to the prevalence of direct-to-consumer advertising, according to another pharmaceutical executive. "In many respects, [advertising] is overdone and overstated," said John Leonard, vice president for global pharmaceutical development at Abbott Laboratories. "We can't let people come in with a false sense of expectation and think there is no downside to taking drugs."
Leonard noted that Americans have a desire to make everything sound simple, including drugs. "When the unavoidable shortcomings become clear, such as the realization that new medicines have side effects, we're quick to call the whole process into question," he said.