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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14669

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

Riggert E.
Drug firms' 'gifts' to GPs
The Advertiser 1999 Jul 26


Full text:

Pharmaceutical companies are spending more than $1 million a day pushing pills to doctors, using inducements including luxury holidays to convince practitioners to prescribe their products.

Doctors have admitted they have received all-expenses-paid offers from pharmaceutical companies to visit Switzerland, attend Bledisloe Cup Rugby Union matches, go fly-fishing off the Queensland coast and attend ‘meetings’ at IMAX cinemas and theatres.

Adelaide general practitioner and president of the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing, Dr Peter Mansfield, said that after he complained to a pharmaceutical company about a misleading advertisement, the company offered him an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland.

He said while the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association stipulated companies could not give gifts worth more than $15, they had devised ways to get around it.

“They give gifts as a thank you for giving your time, gifts for attending meetings, and travel money is often provided,” Dr Mansfield said. “Pharmaceuticals spend $1 billion a year trying to influence us – and research shows it is working.”

Medical experts warned the practices were increasing the cost of drugs for patients and compromising medical research by allowing drug companies to fund profitable projects.

National Health Advisory Committee chairman and the University of Sydney’s Dean of Medicine, Professor Stephen Leeder, said some countries restricted pharmaceutical companies’ promotional spending, but not here.

“It ranges from surgery visits drug drug company representatives, who hand out trinkets and morning tea, to free lunches, lavish dinners and all-expenses-paid weekends away,” he said.

Prevented by law from promoting pills directly to the public, the drug companies instead targeted doctors, whose prescribing patterns could be tracked through pharmacies and local area sales.

More than $3.7 billion was spent annually in Australia on pharmaceutical drugs, with drug companies spending between 10 to 30 percent on promotion. This means at least $1 million was funnelled into pushing pills every day.

The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association yesterday said its code of conduct was among the world’s strictest and there had been no complaint about an inappropriate gift for “five or six years”.

 

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What these howls of outrage and hurt amount to is that the medical profession is distressed to find its high opinion of itself not shared by writers of [prescription] drug advertising. It would be a great step forward if doctors stopped bemoaning this attack on their professional maturity and began recognizing how thoroughly justified it is.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963