Dr Barbara Mintzes is a research scientist specialising in the study of pharmaceutical policy. Her research focuses on the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and other forms of pharmaceutical promotion on the prescribing and use of medicines. She also performs systematic reviews of clinical trial evidence regarding the health effects of medicines, including both benefit and harm, in terms of outcomes of importance to patients’ health. Dr Mintzes has a doctorate in Health Care and Epidemiology and was Associate Professor at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada prior to joining the University of Sydney in April 2015. At UBC, she worked with the Therapeutics Initiative, a research group that evaluates new drugs as a background to provincial reimbursement decisions and produces an educational bulletin on drug treatments. Currently, she is the lead investigator on an international comparative study examining the influence of national regulations on the amount of safety information that pharmaceutical sales representatives provide to primary care physicians. Dr Mintzes was a lead member of an international WHO and Health Action International (HAI) project that involved developing an educational manual on drug promotion, for pharmacy and medical students. This manual has been translated into Spanish, Russian and French, and incorporated into education curricula in a range of settings. Dr Mintzes maintains strong community engagement, having worked for many years with women’s health and consumer groups, including DES (diethylstilbestrol) Action Canada, and Women and Health Protection (a Canadian non-profit organization). She co-authored the book “Sex, Lies and Pharmaceuticals” with Ray Moynihan, published in 2010.
Dr Mintzes’ research focuses primarily on quality use of medicines, through studies that build the scientific evidence to support appropriate prescribing and use of medicines, and through evaluations of the effectiveness of policies aiming to support quality medicine use.
In the field of pharmaceutical policy, she has conducted research on pharmaceutical promotion, comparing the content of promotional information provided to consumers and physicians with the scientific evidence, and comparing national approaches to regulation and regulatory standards with promotional content. Her second related interest is the study of ‘disease-mongering’, i.e. commercial influences on diagnostic criteria and on the thresholds for treatment of specific conditions.
Current research projects include: a comparative evaluation of regulatory safety advisories on medicines in four countries over a 10-year period; an evaluation of antidepressant use in pregnancy in British Columbia; a systematic review of the beneficial and harmful effects of postpartum domperidone use to stimulate lactation; a systematic review of disease-awareness advertising; and an evaluation of the strength of evidence supporting recommendations for ‘off-label’ use of pharmaceuticals in a prescribing guide.
With the Charles Perkins Centre, Dr Mintzes’ research will evaluate how diagnostic thresholds and treatment outcomes are assessed in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and particularly the influence of commercial interests. A second focus is the study of medications with cardiovascular and metabolic adverse events.