Yesterday, many major news outlets covered the story of an 11-year study of multivitamins that suggested men who take them have a slightly reduced risk of developing cancer.
The vitamins’ effect on cancer was “modest — an 8% reduction in the risk of total cancer,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Howard Sesso, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But he said the findings were important “given how little we know about the prevention of cancer in general.”
But perhaps even more striking than the vitamins’ modest health benefit was what happened today: a decidedly un-modest advertising campaign on television and in newspapers touting the multivitamins used in the study — Centrum Silver, owned by drug giant Pfizer.
(Just to be clear on the study’s financing, it was “supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and an investigator-initiated grant from BASF Corporation. Study agents and packaging were provided by BASF Corporation and Pfizer, formerly Wyeth, American Home Products, and Lederle, and study packaging was provided by DSM Nutritional Products, Inc., formerly Roche Vitamins”).
A full-page ad in The New York Times claims the multivitamins used in a clinical trial are the “most studied.”
There was a full page ad in The New York Times promoting the vitamins as: “Most doctor recommended; Most preferred; Most studied.” Interestingly, the ad doesn’t mention any reduced cancer risk, but maybe in this age of tainted drugs, “most studied” is an even more reassuring claim.
And here’s what CommonHealth’s co-host Carey Goldberg confronted during her morning workout:
I was on the elliptical at my gym at a little after 8 this morning, looking up at the array of a half dozen television screens, and was amazed to see ads for Centrum Silver on three televisions at once, apparently all three major networks, touting the vitamins as not just most recommended by doctors but “most studied.” It surely is “most studied” after a trial of 15,000 men over more than a decade, but I felt like a total tool for writing about that trial yesterday.
Indeed, as soon as the study was released, the promoting kicked in. For instance, here’s part of Pfizer’s cheerleading press release on the vitamins and offers of myriad company executives to interview about the results: Continue reading