Much of the information about Big Pharma was not a surprise, but I was horrified to hear that pharma reps. are allowed to trawl through patient records by some doctors and that some professional journals are owned by Big Pharma. I wasn't so impressed by the final sections on recommendations for doctors, scientists in pharmaceutical companies and so on. I thought the advice for patients was very thin, just about participating in medical trials, joining patient groups and sending letters to big pharmaceutical companies asking if they have any research they have not revealed! Gotta come down off that mountain Dr. Goldacre, and hang with the common patient!
Reading about shoddy pharma. science and marketing techniques did inspire me to do research on a medication that might have been suggested for me recently and I was able to easily find out about a large-scale Stage 3 trial which had negative results, a huge fine for the manufacturer for off-label marketing, negative journal articles and a pediatric death duing trials, all in the last six months, all on the web.
The book inspired me to think of some ways to protect myself from both big pharma and bad medicine in the doctor's office. Doctors are rushed, and making them work to give a prescription is one way to slow them down, make them think and make yourself less of a target for the latest drug being pushed by Big Pharma. If I don't recognize a med. being prescribed, I ask a doctor about its price and ask them to call my pharmacy if they don't know. I also just ask for cheaper and older drugs that I would feel safer with. Asking what the on-label uses of the med. are and if it is being prescribed for an off-label use is another good question. For any chronic condition, I will now ask what lifestyle modifications would achieve the same result as medication and then ask for multiple tests over a period of time in different situations i.e. blood pressure readings by a nurse, at home, before taking the med. In the case of my mother who is very elderly, I have asked the doctor to give me peace of mind by refering me to journal articles and studies which support the use or long-term use of such a med. in the elderly, because the news is worrying about med x.
The reality for patients is that if you are too confrontational with doctors, they don't have to keep you as a patient in Canada or the US. Getting a new doctor in Canada can be very difficult.