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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 15779

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

Crigger NJ, Bennison LW.
Both Sides of Pharmaceutical Promotion
Advance 2007 Dec 11


Many nurse practitioners have mixed views about the marketing strategies used by the pharmaceutical industry. While NPs recognize that pharmaceutical promotional activities can be beneficial, the industry’s increasingly aggressive marketing, particularly in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, is worrisome to them. Gift giving and promotional activities have been curtailed as a result of voluntary guidelines developed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Under these guidelines, noneducational programs and lavish gifts unrelated to health care are not permitted.1,2 However, intense marketing is still common.

When does pharmaceutical marketing go overboard? When is the intensity of drug promotion detrimental to rational prescribing practices? Using a point-counterpoint format, this article presents a two-sided discussion of the ethical acceptability of pharmaceutical sales tactics.


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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