The US Senate Aging Committee was looking at medical device ads yesterday.
While spending by the device industry is minuscule by comparison (with drug ads), several of the biggest players are adapting similar high-profile tactics.
Johnson & Johnson currently promotes its orthopedic hips with a TV advertisement featuring Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Biomet has promoted its competing products with spokeswoman Mary Lou Retton, an Olympic gymnastics champion.
Unlike ads from pharmaceutical companies, medical device spots are not required to give equal balance to risks and benefits of their products. Because of that, they can "create unrealistic expectations among patients and lead to overutilization of inappropriate and costly, unproven technologies," said Kevin Bozic, a board director of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Consumers Union called for device ads to include information about infections and other complications. a CU news release stated:
A recent FDA report on data collected from fiscal year 2006 found a 25 percent increase in adverse events linked to medical devices over the previous fiscal year, including 2,830 deaths, 116,086 injuries, and 96,485 malfunctions. The CDC's National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) System Report shows knee and hip replacement surgery to be a serious source of infection. In some of the NNIS reporting hospitals, the risk of infection may run as high as five percent or more.
Warnings of side effects associated with implantable medical devices in direct consumer ads are generally non-existent or minimal. A review by Consumers Union found no advertisements that advised consumers of the very real possibility of deadly infections or of the need to seek out surgical centers with low infection rates.
The New York Times reported:
"...some experts maintain that the advertising of a medical device can have more of an impact on a patient’s well-being than a drug, because devices often require surgery to implant and may remain inside the body for years.
'The results are irreversible because you are kind of stuck with a device,' said Dr. Kevin J. Bozic, a professor of orthopedics at the University of California, San Francisco."