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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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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909