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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 13002

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: news

Woodhead M.
Medical education blasted
6minutes (Australia) 2008 Feb 22


See also comments on this piece e.g.

Dr Ramesh Manocha on education vs marketing

Prof Terry Diamond on sponsored symposia

Dr Peter Lavelle on sponsorship of symposia

Full text:

The BMJ this week carries a strong attack on medical education providers in Australia saying that contrary to their claims of independence they are providing doctors with ‘marketing masquerading as education’.

In an article on ‘the invisible influence’ in doctor’s education, BMJ visiting editor Ray Moynihan says leaked emails show that drug companies are being allowed to determine the speakers and topics at medical education events accredited by august associations.

The material, to be presented on an ABC Background Briefing program this weekend, is said to show that three pharmaceutical companies were able to ensure their preferred speakers were chosen for education seminars organised by a company HealthEd.

Mr Moynhihan, who is also a lecturer in the faculty of Health at the University of Newcastle, says the material also provides proof that the sponsors were able to ensure the speakers and topics were “on message”.

But the managing director of HealthEd, Dr Ramesh Manocha denies the claims, saying that any such requests about meetings content from industry sponsors are filtered through independent working groups and scientific committees.

The article quotes industry sources as saying they would be comfortable with moves to ensure full disclosure of sponsors’ roles in selecting or suggesting speakers for events.

Dr Peter Mansfield, a South Australian GP who is also head of the anti-drug promotion lobby group says medical education should be funded by taxpayers rather than commercial sponsors.


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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963