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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19230

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

Silversides A
Tight regulation of French drug reps mean French doctors get more balanced information than doctors in the US
BMJ 2010 Dec 3; 341:


Limits placed by French authorities on what can be said and done by drug company sales representatives mean doctors in France receive more balanced information than their counterparts in the United States and Canada, a meeting on the regulation of drug promotion and the protection of public health was told.

Drug sales representatives in France provided information on harmful side effects of drugs in 60% of their encounters with doctors, but their counterparts in the US and Canada provided this information in fewer than 40% of encounters, according to results from a three country study of interactions between family doctors and drug sales representatives.

The French doctors were also rarely offered free samples (4% of them compared with 75% of doctors at the Vancouver site), and only 0.2% of French doctors were offered lunch or other food, compared with 23% in Vancouver and 24% at the US site …


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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