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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19163

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

Othman N, Vitry AI, Roughead EE, Ismail SB, Omar K
Medicines information provided by pharmaceutical representatives: a com parative study in Australia and Malaysia.
BMC Public Health 2010 Nov 30; 10:(1):743
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/743


Abstract:

BACKGROUND: Pharmaceutical
representatives provide medicines
information on their promoted
products to doctors. However,
studies have shown that the quality
of this information is often low. No
study has assessed the medicines
information provided by
pharmaceutical representatives to
doctors in Malaysia and no recent
evidence in Australia is present. We
aimed to compare the provision of
medicines information by
pharmaceutical representatives to
doctors in Australia and Malaysia.

METHODS: Following a pharmaceutical
representative’s visit, general
practitioners in Australia and
Malaysia who had agreed to
participate, were asked to fill out
a questionnaire on the main product
and claims discussed during the
encounter. The questionnaire focused
on provision of product information
including indications, adverse
effects, precautions,
contraindications and the provision
of information on the Pharmaceutical
Benefit Scheme (PBS) listings and
restrictions (in Australia only).
Descriptive statistics were
produced. Chi-square analysis and
clustered linear regression were
used to assess differences in
Australia and Malaysia.

RESULTS: Significantly more approved
product information sheets were
provided in Malaysia (78%) than in
Australia (53%) (P < 0.001). In both
countries, general practitioners
reported that indications
(Australia, 90%, Malaysia, 93%) and
dosages (Australia, 76%, Malaysia,
82%) were frequently provided by
pharmaceutical representatives.
Contraindications, precautions, drug
interactions and adverse effects
were often omitted in the
presentations (range 25% – 41%).
General practitioners in Australia
and Malaysia indicated that in more
than 90% of presentations,
pharmaceutical representatives
partly or fully answered their
questions on contraindications,
precautions, drug interactions and
adverse effects. More general
practitioners in Malaysia (85%) than
in Australia (60%) reported that
pharmaceutical representatives
should have mentioned
contraindications, precautions for
use, drug interaction or adverse
effects spontaneously (P < 0.001).
In 48% of the Australian
presentations, general practitioners
reported the pharmaceutical
representatives failed to mention
information on PBS listings to
general practitioners.

CONCLUSIONS: Information on
indications and dosages were usually
provided by pharmaceutical
representatives in Australia and
Malaysia. However, risk and harmful
effects of medicines were often
missing in their presentations.
Effective control of medicines
information provided by
pharmaceutical representatives is
needed.

 

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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