办事指南

Gagging order

点击量:   时间:2019-02-26 05:01:01

By Dan Charles Berlin GERMAN drugs companies have persuaded a court to block publication of a report that calls on doctors to stop prescribing many medicines. The report, written by leading pharmacologists, claims that 20 per cent of the drugs prescribed in Germany offer no real clinical benefits. On 12 September, three companies—Willmar Schwabe, Strathmann and Bionorica—obtained a temporary injunction from a court in Düsseldorf, preventing distribution of the 1997 Drug Prescription Report. The full legal battle is expected to last for several months. The Drug Prescription Report is published annually, and is intended to help doctors and patients distinguish between proven and unproven medications. This year’s report differed from previous editions in that it included a chart showing how to replace allegedly ineffective drugs with better—or at least cheaper— alternatives. “We didn’t just tell people what’s bad, but also how it can be replaced,” says Ulrich Schwabe, director of the Institute for Pharmacology at the University of Heidelberg, one of the report’s editors. It is this section in particular that seems to have provoked the companies’ legal action. Schwabe is furious with the companies, and suspects that one of the experts who was asked to review the manuscript before its publication is responsible for leaking its contents to contacts in the drugs industry. The German Pharmaceutical Industry Association, which supports the three companies’ action, argues that the report is biased. The association points out that several leading insurance companies provided data for the report or financial assistance to pay for the analysis. Health insurers would like to reduce the amount they are forced to pay out to cover the cost of prescription drugs, claims Kerstin Kilian, a spokeswoman for the association. “This is not an independent body that’s putting this book out, and it’s not as scientific as it appears,” she says. Distinguishing between effective medicines and worthless treatments is particularly difficult in Germany. Of the 50 000 prescription drugs currently on the market, 33 000 have never been subjected to rigorous clinical studies. They include herbal preparations, homeopathic remedies and synthetic drugs developed before Germany’s Drug Law, which regulates the pharmaceuticals industry, came into effect in 1978. The most popular of these inadequately tested drugs, prescribed tens of millions of times in Germany each year,