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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 1937

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

Harvey KJ, Vitry AI., Aroni R, Ballenden N, Faggotter R.
Pharmaceutical advertisements in prescribing software: an analysis
MJA 2005 Jul 18; 183:(2):75-79



To assess pharmaceutical advertisements in prescribing software, their adherence to code standards, and the opinions of general practitioners regarding the advertisements.
Design, setting and participants:

Content analysis of advertisements displayed by Medical Director version 2.81 (Health Communication Network, Sydney, NSW) in early 2005; thematic analysis of a debate on this topic held on the General Practice Computer Group email forum (GPCG_talk) during December 2004.
Outcome measures:

Placement, frequency and type of advertisements; their compliance with the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, and the views of GPs.

24 clinical functions in Medical Director contained advertisements. These included 79 different advertisements for 41 prescription products marketed by 17 companies, including one generic manufacturer. 57 of 60 (95%) advertisements making a promotional claim appeared noncompliant with one or more requirements of the Code. 29 contributors, primarily GPs, posted 174 emails to GPCG_talk; there was little support for these advertisements, but some concern that the price of software would increase if they were removed.

We suggest that pharmaceutical promotion in prescribing software should be banned, and inclusion of independent therapeutic information be mandated.

pharmaceutical advertisements prescribing software Medical Director Health Communication Network GPCG General Practice Computer Group Medicines Australia Code Conduct


Ralph Faggotter’s Comments : This article highlights the undesirable practice, in Australia, of the advertising of drugs on one software provider’s Medical Record and Prescribing Software at the point of prescribing by doctors. Sometimes the advertisements are in clear breach of the Pharmaceutical Industry’s own Code of Conduct. That this practice has been permitted to flourish, is a sad reflection on the failure of successive Federal Health Ministers to adequately regulate this area for the public good.


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Email a Friend influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.