The Food and Drug Administration is proposing to allow pharmaceutical companies to undermine official safety warnings in sales presentations to customers.

While an FDA warning about a drug’s dangers can scare off buyers, the new proposal would allow companies to provide doctors, hospitals and other customers with information that conflicts with official advice, which is typically developed after a rigorous scientific process.

The proposal is supported by pharmaceutical manufacturers, who argue that the policy would allow them to provide doctors and hospitals with the latest research.

The information drug companies may present to customers must arise from sound research published in peer-reviewed journals. But the proposal is drawing an avalanche of criticism from public health advocates who argue that because individual studies can differ widely in their results, and because many of them are funded by the industry, a drug company could easily mislead customers – and possibly endanger patients – by presenting only a selection of new research.

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