Confessions of a European health consumer

Written by Silja on 9 October 2009 in epatients - 5 Comments
Woman arrested

Woman arrestedToday, I was looking for information for my Dad who is a type 2 diabetic. I was interested to see, if a certain type of insulin could control his diabetes better. Naturally, I went online and typed the product in question into Google. The site that came up was the American product site. There was no German site for obvious reasons.

The site had patient testimonies and a number of interesting pieces of information about the product. Just the sort of stuff I was looking for. Yet, when I tried entering my information, this is what I got:


Well, I have a shocking confession to make: I lied. Within seconds I became an American citizen living at Road 123, 4567 City, Alabama, US.

And it worked! I got into the site and could quench my thirst for value-added health information concerning the product in question.

I hope you believe me when I say that all in all, I am an honest, law-obeying, tax-paying citizen with strong ethics. Yet, I had the chance to receive a higher education that procured me solid English language skills. I  work in a professional environment that allows me to pick up a thing or two about pharmaceutical products. And friends and family frequently ask me advice about their treatments.

I feel it is my responsibility to help them. I believe that the information I get is helping them make better decisions about their health.

Yet, despite these higher motives, the facts are still against me: I lied. I cheated. I denied my European heritage. I misrepresented who I was and where I was living. I stole information that was not meant for my eyes…

Worse, I do not even feel the last bit guilty! I do not regret what I did. I wanted that piece of information and therefore I took it. I took it to help my Dad make an informed decision about his diabetes treatment. I took it, because I knew where to find it and what to do with it.

On top of it, I am a repeat criminal! I plead guilty to at least 4-5 of these sort of offenses per month!

So what are the consequences of my disobedience? Who will fine me or throw me into jail for what I have done?

Or who will wash my conscience of these sins I commit against my will? Because, you see, I do not really want to lie. I would much prefer to get access to this information without it.

To be honest, I am actually really mad that simply because I live in Europe, I should have to remain ignorant about pharmaceutical product information. That because my father is treated in Germany, he somehow has to be ok with the fact that he has access to less information and consequently less power over his health. Because this is what we are talking about here: patient empowerment! …And access to good, reliable information is the first step to that empowerment.

Now that I washed my dirty conscience in the public place called social media, I am turning myself in for judgement by the community. I would like you to tell me how you feel about being a health consumer in Europe and accessing US DTC information:

Is it wrong to try to obtain US DTC health information online by misrepresenting your country of residence?

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Have you ever lied or misrepresented information to get access to US DTC health information?

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If you answered “yes“ above, how did this make you feel?

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Please add your comments and thoughts below to show your support for my moral predicament or compell me into repentance – Thank you.

5 Comments on "Confessions of a European health consumer"

  1. Eva Velasco 10 October 2009 at 15 h 46 min ·

    Hi Silja,

    What is your opinion about the EU initiative to allow pharma companies to provide “some” branded information about their products? Do you think it will come through?.

    Obviously the “for US residents only” warning is a regulatory/legal imposition on the marketing teams, who know for a fact that people outside of the US are reading their sites. I am a native Spanish speaker, and I do not even need to use my solid English language skills..all the US branded sites include a version in Spanish!

    Does not look too bright for the EU to change anything, if were to base my opinion on Spanish allegations not to allow branded information available on the Internet, main arguments are sales of reimbursed products will go up, cause everyone will want the “advertised” drug, even if they do not need it!

  2. Silja 10 October 2009 at 20 h 42 min ·

    Dear Eva,

    All EU health care systems are collapsing under their costs. Drug treatment costs are always pointed to as one of the main factors causing this explosion of healthcare costs, but this is incorrect. It is not the treatments that are at the base of the ailing healthcare systems, it is the increasingly bad health of our population (aging population, obesity epidemic, stress, etc.).

    More patients are sick for much longer than before. Chronic care is the main cost factor of health care sytems today. The response to this evolution cannot be cost reduction. This would simply result in worse care. The aim of health care systems has to become health – thus a focus on prevention, patient education and integration of healthcare services. I am not smart enough to come up with such brilliant thoughts, btw, Michael Porter and Prof. Teisberg have done this (see Prof. Teisberg’s presentation on redefining healthcare here:

    So yes, I believe that the level and quality of health and drug information available for patients in Europe needs to improve. Only informed patients can become empowered health care consumers that take the right decisions and responsibility for their health.

  3. Pedro L. González 11 October 2009 at 19 h 25 min ·

    I agree with Silja that drugs are not the problem. The question is if they can form part of the solution to healthcare delivery in the XXIst Century.

    Pharmaceutical and Assurance companies have a branch of opportunity to add value to the patients and the health systems just helping them to achieve the outcomes expected in terms of health and quality of life, when they are approved by EMEA.

    European DTC -disease and not product related- has turned to be the most effective according to the last studies in the US. I think Pharma in Europe could play a proactive and responsible role in facilitating ‘the patient revolution’ …

    The problem is that they cannot achieve credibility in any of these issues unless they first achieve trust from their stakeholders: regulators, doctors, patients, etc… This is their most valuable capital (intangible) but they have been wasting it all these last years under the foolish logic of constant and incremental revenues.

    May be they can begin by recognizing their terrible policies in Africa with respect to prices and as for collaboration to envision a new way of providing healthcare in the era of hyper informed- hyper connected patient…

  4. John R 17 January 2010 at 6 h 08 min ·

    Hey helpful Blog. It is much valuable Soon you Experienced it. Much useful. Mahalo.

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