Monday, June 2, 2008

Another failure to communicate with Doctors

In a Wall Street Journal Blog, Jacob Goldstein talks about Anemia drugs sold by Amgen and J&J (Aranesp, Procrit and Epogen) that may stimulate the growth of tumors in some cancer patients. Research suggests a genetic link that could potentially be used as a biomarker to figure which patients should and should not receive those drugs.

At the end of the WSJ article, Goldstein quotes Tony Blau, the lead researcher who said that “The definitive answer to this question lies locked in the files of pathologists’ offices.”

What a shame.

If drug companies had better communications with doctors, research on what works and what does not could be significantly enhanced. performed a February 2008 online physician survey of oncologists and hematologists on the subject of Aranesp, Procrit and Epogen prescribing practices. See detailed survey and results.

65.6% of doctors agreed that certain dosages of these drugs resulted in more rapid growth of certain cancers and a decreased cancer survival rate. Consequently, about 66% of doctors have either reduced the dosages they prescribe, or reduced the number of patients they prescribe the drugs to, or reduced drug usage in certain cancer patients.

Amgen and Johnson & Johnson should do more prompt research on this issue and get answers as quickly as possible since many doctors are clearly nervous about using these drugs. Ironically, the answers are probably "locked in the files of pathologists’ offices."

The longer doctors are kept uninformed, the more likely they will be influenced by media reports as opposed to science, as occurred in the Vytorin debacle. See Analysis of Vytorin Surveys.

Failure to communicate promptly and effectively with physicians will certainly cause further erosion of sales of these drugs, as is occurring with Vytorin.

Robert Cykiert, M.D.

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