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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 14871

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

Beard K.
Commentary: The balance between marketing and safety.
BMJ 2008 Dec 24; 337:a2996:


Drug marketing can be sophisticated and very successful. This is understandably desirable for manufacturers given the pressures of finite patent life and the imminent arrival of competitors. Kao expresses concern that successful marketing of new medicines, especially in the regulatory environment that allows a shorter lead time from submission to market access, might compromise patient safety.1 2 His description of sitagliptin’s market penetration in the United States is an impressive story from an industry perspective. It also raises the issues of drug industry involvement with disease awareness campaigns and patient organisations, as well as direct to consumer advertising as methods of promoting product awareness. A recent European Commission consultation focused on the role of industry in providing information on medicines to patients, and although there was overall agreement that the present ban on direct to consumer advertising should remain, there was perhaps predictable variation in stakeholders’ responses.


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909