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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 15116

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

Vitry A, Lai YH.
Advertising of antihypertensive medicines and prescription sales in Australia
Internal Medicine Journal 2009 Feb 16; epub ahead of print


Background: Drug promotion is one of the main factors that influence prescribing practices but there are limited data available to quantify the relationship between drug advertising and prescription sales.

Aims: To investigate the relationship between advertising for antihypertensive medicines and prescription sales in Australia between 1993 and 2002.

Methods: Retrospective observational study. Advertising trends were monitored by counting the number of advertisements published in 3 Australian medical journals. Monthly prescription dispensing data were obtained from DUSC and expressed as numbers of Defined Daily Doses (DDDs)/1000 inhabitants/day. Linear regression and cross-correlations of time series were used in the analysis.

Results: The drug classes the most heavily advertised, ACE inhibitors and CCBs, were also the most prescribed during the study period while the drugs the least advertised, thiazide diuretics and beta-blockers, were the least used. In 5 of the 7 main antihypertensive classes, the product the most advertised was also the most prescribed. Other factors such as the publication of large clinical trials may have also influenced prescribing patterns.

Conclusions: Prescription sales of antihypertensives in Australia are correlated with promotional advertising. The newest and most expensive medicines may be chosen over older effective drugs by prescribers. New policies on drug promotion control need to be developed.

promotion • advertising • prescription sales • antihypertensive medicines


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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