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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 13327

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

Roy N, Madhiwalla N, Pai SA.
Drug promotional practices in Mumbai: a qualitative study
Indian Journal of Medical Ethics 2007 Apr-Jun; 4:(2):57-61


We conducted a qualitative study to determine the range of promotional practices influencing drug usage in Mumbai. Open-ended interviews were conducted with 15 senior executives in drug companies, 25 chemists and 25 doctors; focus group discussions were held with 36 medical representatives.

The study provided a picture of what might be described as an unholy alliance: manufacturers, chemists and doctors conspire to make profits at the expense of consumers and the public’s health, even as they negotiate with each other on their respective shares of these profits.

Misleading information, incentives and unethical trade practices were identified as methods to increase the prescription and sale of drugs. Medical representatives provide incomplete medical information to influence prescribing practices; they also offer incentives including conference sponsorship. Doctors may also demand incentives, as when doctors’ associations threaten to boycott companies that do not comply with their demands for sponsorship. Manufacturers, chemists and medical representatives use various unethical trade practices. Of particular interest was the finding that chemists are major players in this system, providing drug information directly to patients. The study also reinforced our impression that medical representatives are the least powerful of the four groups.


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Email a Friend influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.