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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20454

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Tucker ME
Drug companies lobby against generic versions of biologics
BMJ 2013 Feb 4; 346:


Biotechnology companies have launched a lobbying initiative to try to stop or slow down the introduction of generic versions of expensive biological drugs. State legislatures across the United States are introducing bills that could make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe—and for patients to obtain—cheaper versions of the drugs.

Generic versions of biological drugs are known as biosimilars. The original versions of the biologics include drugs such as rituximab (marketed as Rituxan or MabThera), trastuzumab (Herceptin), and bevacizumab (Avastin). These are among the best selling anticancer drugs in the world. The drugs, which are produced in cell systems, are said to account for about 25% of the US annual drug bill of $320bn (£205bn; €235bn).

Like other generic drugs, biosimilars are designed to be cheaper versions of brand name drugs. But they are created by …


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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963