Friday, June 03, 2005

Marketing Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus

Joseph Friedman, a neurologist here in Rhode Island, wrote an op-ed in the Providence Journal that documented yet another story about apparently deceptive marketing, this time of devices. He recounted his discovery of a marketing campaign for the device used to shunt fluid for patients with the relatively rare condition of normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH).
He first saw a segment on a television magazine show on NPH, and then "an avalanche of TV advertisements about the disorder." Then patients with previously diagnosed Parkinson's Disease began to show up in his office, wondering if they didn't have the much more rare condition, NPH. Since the diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease is usually clear-cut, and NPH is very uncommon, these ads may lead to a lot of unnecessary tests. Furthermore, as Dr. Friedman pointed out, "patients suffer twice: first, when they wonder if they've been mistreated for 10 years by their clueless doctor; then, when they're disappointed to learn that they haven't been misdiagnosed."
Dr. Friedman forcefully conceptualized the issues: "what I think: that the dirtbags who run the shunt company, the increasingly politicized U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the executives who run television are willing to create false hope if it creates a market."

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