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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
http://www.ijme.in/152oa57.html


Abstract:

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.


Notes:

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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