Home > Health and wellness, News and politics > Off Label Markeing is Snake Oil Sales

Off Label Markeing is Snake Oil Sales

Recently the drug company GlaxoSmithKlein filed a suit in court challenging the constitutionality of the FDA’s labeling and misbranding regulations. Currently the US Food and Drug Administration regulations make it illegal for drug companies to market aspects of drugs for which they are not approved. For example, a drug company produces an FDA approved drug, but when the salesmen are making the sales pitch for the drug they advertise it doing more than what the FDA approved for. The situation the FDA is prohibiting is they don’t want to approve a drug for one thing (let’s say muscle relaxant) and then have to company turn around and advertise it for another thing (let’s say curing AIDs).

GlaxoSmithKlein claims that the FDA is infringing on their freedom of speech by not allowing them to market their drugs however they want. If doctors can prescribe drugs for symptoms the drugs aren’t approved for (which currently is legal), why shouldn’t the drug companies be allowed to sell the drugs for “off label uses”? The reason is because that’s the same thing as snake oil sales! Metaphorically a snake oil sales man is a grifter who is selling a harmless product as being a magical product and then gets out-of-town before anyone realises that the drug doesn’t do what they purchased it for (I recommend reading the Wikipedia entry on Snake Oil, it’s quite informative). When town citizens realize that they’ve been grifted they form a lynch mob to get the grifting salesman. Currently we as US citizens get to avoid this scenario because of the FDA regulations.

I for one don’t want to have to worry about the true purposes of drugs sold in the US. I like the idea that the drug makers have to keep to statistically provable effects of their drugs. While I’m not a big fan of big pharmaceutical companies I certainly don’t want to see them turning into snake oil salesmen. Freedom of speech is the principle that we can speak freely about the shortcomings of our government, not that companies should be allowed to make statiscally incorrect statements about their products. Should off label marketing become legal it would result in a class of grifters with too much influence in high places for us citizens to lynch.

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