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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16758

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

Egilman D
Just say no
BMJ 2009; 339:b4527


The postmarketing observational studies referred to by Annette Tufts in her news story are sham studies that are generally referred to as “seeding trials.“1 2 The actual research taking place is the evaluation of the return on investment (ROI) from paying physician “investigators” to participate in the sham study. The ROI is measured by tracking the increased use of the drug by participating doctors, who are the real subjects of these studies.3

No patient would ever agree to participate in a trial designed to determine how the use of physicians as investigators can increase drug sales. No institutional review board would ever approve such a trial. Unfortunately, the side effects from these sham trials are real.4

Drug companies are systematically misleading patients and doctors in these seeding trials. The Nuremberg Code (and all other medical research codes) requires that research subjects should be informed of the purpose of the research. This . . .


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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963