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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 1227

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Journal Article

Cooper RJ, Schriger DL, Wallace RC, Mikulich VJ, Wilkes MS.
The quantity and quality of scientific graphs in pharmaceutical advertisements.
J Gen Intern Med 2003 Apr; 18:(4):294-7


We characterized the quantity and quality of graphs in all pharmaceutical advertisements, in the 10 U.S. medical journals. Four hundred eighty-four unique advertisements (of 3,185 total advertisements) contained 836 glossy and 455 small-print pages. Forty-nine percent of glossy page area was nonscientific figures/images, 0.4% tables, and 1.6% scientific graphs (74 graphs in 64 advertisements). All 74 graphs were univariate displays, 4% were distributions, and 4% contained confidence intervals for summary measures. Extraneous decoration (66%) and redundancy (46%) were common. Fifty-eight percent of graphs presented an outcome relevant to the drug’s indication. Numeric distortion, specifically prohibited by FDA regulations, occurred in 36% of graphs.

Advertising/standards* Advertising/statistics & numerical data Bibliometrics* Drug Industry/standards* Federal Government Government Regulation Humans Medical Illustration* Periodicals/standards* Pharmaceutical Preparations/standards Professional Misconduct Quality Assurance, Health Care Retrospective Studies United States


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