Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Power of Marketing Drugs for Kids


...it's especially evident in our new, burgeoning pharmaceutical market, our children:
Madeira Therapeutics, based in Leawood, Kan., is formulating a liquid statin for children that will be sold in either grape, cherry or bubblegum flavor, according to the company’s chief executive, Peter R. Joiner.

Madeira became interested in the drug to treat children with a genetic cholesterol condition, familial hypercholesterolemia, which strikes 1 in 500 children regardless of their diet. The recent American Academy of Pediatrics statement adds to the potential market, according to Mr. Joiner.
This need is further supported, of course, by powerful marketing data supplied by the monstrously profitable prescription services themselves: Medco Health Solutions, Express Scripts, and Verispan:
Express Scripts and Medco developed estimates of how many children might be taking such drugs by extrapolating their data — involving a total of more than four million children — across the broader population.

The companies use different assumptions to reach their estimates, but the data suggests that at least several hundred thousand children are on various obesity-related medications.

The greatest increase occurred in drugs for Type 2 diabetes, with Medco’s data showing a 151 percent jump from 2001 to 2007.

Medco’s data, released in May, showed that use of drugs to treat acid reflux problems in children, often aggravated by obesity, increased 137 percent over seven years. Its analysis also showed an 18 percent increase in drugs to treat high blood pressure and a 12 percent increase in cholesterol-lowering medications during the seven-year period.

Express Scripts found a 15 percent increase over three years in drugs to treat cholesterol and other fats in the blood, a category that is primarily statins.

“We were amazed at how quickly the rates of drugs used have climbed,” said Dr. Donna R. Halloran, an assistant professor at St. Louis University who worked on the Express Scripts analysis, presented at a meeting of the American Public Health Association in November.

Verispan data recorded a 13 percent increase in high blood pressure prescriptions in the under 19 age group from 2005 to 2007. Its numbers show, however, a less than 1 percent increase during the period in cholesterol-lowering drugs in children.
And therefore, because the rates have climbed, it must be okay, right?

The suspect nature of these culled data draw into question the message we want to feed (pun intended) our children and families, and pushes public health experts (and even our professional societies) to waddle toward the path of least resistance when it comes to caring for our children.

The issue of childhood obesity is a complicated one, fraught with many challenges. The influence of the fast-food industry, internet gaming industry, drops in funding to support school-based physical education programs, and the complicated socioeconomic challenges of fragmented families, have all coalesced to create the perfect storm of influences to promote weight gain in our children. These problems, it seems, have become insurmountable.

Better to just give 'em a pill.

-Wes

Image reference.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I urge caution before jumping on the bandwagon against fat kids. Reflux, for example, is a common side effect of antidepressants and according to the CDC Health US 2007 report, antidepressant prescriptions in children alone increased four-fold between 1995 and 2005.

Prescriptions written are not a measure of health.

Kathleen said...

Hi there,

The problems do seem insurmountable, but on a positive note, I'm (finally)seeing a trend -starting with the likes of practitioners like yourself, or so I hope.

I hope the public is sick of pills as a cure-all. The newer guidelines for managing cholesterol in children are frightening. I sincerely wonder about the long-term effects.

Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that adult obesity is also rampant. Inactive adults cannot produce active, healthy children, nor can they set any sort of good example.

I think advertisers should be held responsible for promoting bad health. In fact, the ads should be removed from TV, just as tobacco advertisers were removed.

I also think healthcare providers, like yourself, who use the Internet for public awareness, just might facilitate better health outcomes in our population.

Rogue Medic said...

An example that you should be familiar with. Doctors were overprescribing flecainide (Tambocor) for post-MI PVCs, at least up until 1989.

It was another example of a reliance on a pill to solve something that a pill could not solve - PVCs are a sign of a diseased heart, getting rid of the PVCs does not make the heart healthy.

Just because a pill can make an assessment look better, does not mean that it is good for the patient. The research on flecainide showed that patients taking it were dropping dead at a much higher rate than those taking placebo.

Not that I think you are in support of this.