Journal articles quickly influence doctor prescribing habits: study

Negative articles in medical journals have a major influence over doctors’ prescribing habits, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The article’s authors found prescriptions for heart failure drug nesiritide -- sold by Scios under the brand name Natrecor -- declined significantly following the appearance of separate journal articles in Dec. 2005 linking the drug’s use to increased risk of kidney failure and death. A team of researchers from Saint Louis University analyzed records of 386,000 heart failure patients admitted to 491 US hospitals before and after the articles appeared. They found the use of nesiritide to treat heart failure patients decreased from a high of 16.6% in March 2005 to 5.6 % in Dec. 2005, the same month the articles discussing the side effects appeared in JAMA and Circulation. “The results were notable and to a large extent unexpected,” lead researcher Dr. Paul Hauptman told “Not only did doctors appear to change practice when confronted with a potential safety problem, but they also did so far more rapidly than we expected.”

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