Web-based Course To Help Doctors Be More Informed Drug Prescribers

April 13, 2006

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine will develop a web-based course designed to give health care providers the information they need to prescribe cost-effective drugs that backed by scientific evidence – and to critically evaluate claims that drug manufacturers make about their products.

“The ultimate goal is to increase the knowledge of health care providers in this important area and to help them make informed prescribing decisions,” said Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health sciences, and lead researcher on the project.

Funding for the project came from a settlement between Warner-Lambert, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., and the attorneys general of 50 states and the District of Columbia as a result of allegations that the company conducted an unlawful marketing campaign for one of its drugs and violated state consumer protection laws.

As a result of the settlement, a $21 million Consumer and Prescriber Grant Program is being administered by a special committee of the state attorneys general. The grants fund programs designed to provide both health care professionals and consumers with information related to prescription drugs, including the way in which drugs are marketed. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is currently a rotating member of the committee and plays an active role in the program.

Wake Forest will receive $399,670 for its two-year, web-based project, which will be called Smart Prescribe. The course will be designed to meet the following objectives:

• Teach health care providers how to critically appraise reports in the medical literature about drug trials.

• Increase their understanding of the Food and Drug Administration, including its approval and monitoring processes.

• Enhance their knowledge of pharmaceutical company drug development and marketing practices.

• Help them learn to recognize and address influences on their prescribing behavior.

• Increase the prescribing of evidence-based, cost-effective prescription drugs.

“We want to help them understand what is good and bad science and to learn to recognize the influences of drug company representatives,” said Furberg.

After the researchers develop the course and evaluate its effectiveness, it will be made available to medical schools and to graduate health programs in pharmacy, nursing and physician assistant, as well as to medical societies and at national conferences and meetings.

The Wake Forest grant is one of 24 projects that were recently approved for funding. The first grants focus on prescriber education. Later grants will focus on consumer education and other topics selected by the committee.

Furberg is widely recognized as a drug safety expert and serves on the FDA Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee. In 2004, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation residency to gather information about drug costs around the world. His co-researchers on the projects are: Roger Anderson, Ph.D., David Miller, M.D., Kaycee Sink, M.D., David Goff, M.D., Ph.D., and David Bowton, M.D.

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Media Contacts: Karen Richardson, krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu; Shannon Koontz, shkoontz@wfubmc.edu; at 336-716-4587.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. U.S. News & World Report ranks Wake Forest University School of Medicine 18th in family medicine, 20th in geriatrics, 25th in primary care and 41st in research among the nation's medical schools. It ranks 32nd in research funding by the National Institutes of Health. Almost 150 members of the medical school faculty are listed in Best Doctors in America.

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