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The consumer demand for a drug depends on many factors, not the least of which is public opinion about the drug. That is part of the reason why drug companies spend millions of dollars annually to market their drugs on TV and in print directly to the consumer rather than to physicians (whom they also market to separately). If a person has a favorable opinion of the drug then he or she might request it when a doctor recommends that the person begin treatment for a certain condition. All things being equal, the doctor is likely to prescribe the requested drug if it is designed to treat the person's condition and does not present risks based on the person's other medical conditions.
There are so many different kinds of drugs on the market today that treat the same condition that often consumer opinion matters to doctors who prescribe the medication. For example, Fosamax is an oral bisphosphonate drug that is manufactured by Merck and Co. to treat osteoporosis. Other drug companies have developed and manufactured other brands of oral bisphosphonate drugs to treat osteoporosis.
So, when news from the University of Southern California School of Dentistry in Los Angeles broke on New Years Day 2009 that Fosamax may be linked to a condition called osteonecrosis, or dead jawbone disease, doctors began to speculate that the news could affect the public's acceptance and use of the drug.
Doctors were particularly worried about the media's attention to this study because this was not the first time that Fosamax and osteonecrosis have been linked. Jaw problems are included in the side effect warnings issued by the company and have previously been reported in the news.
Doctors, including Dr. Donna Shoupe, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine at USC who has experience treating women with osteoporosis, think that the January 2009 news could have a significant negative impact on sales of the drug. Other doctors, such as Dr. Marie Savard, are concerned that death of the jawbone could just be the beginning of osteonecrosis problems that are found to be linked to the use of the Fosamax drug. Some doctors are concerned that as each new report breaks the public opinion of Fosamax will be affected before all of the information is collected and analyzed.
As more stories are reported in the media of further studies or even anecdotal evidence from dentists and doctors, public opinion of the drug is likely to become more negative and patients are likely to become more concerned about the drug's safety. That, combined with the positive opinion the public might have about other osteoporosis drugs may lead to a decline in demand for Fosamax.
For all of these reasons, public acceptance of Fosamax is important to the drug's future. If patients are resistant to taking Fosamax then fewer doctors are likely to prescribe the drug especially if Fosamax risks and Fosamax lawsuits are reported on by the national media.