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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 1941

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: media release

Stafford A.
Study finds drug ads breaching code
The Financial Review ( Australia) 2005 Jul 26

self-regulation Code Conduct advertisements prescribing software


Ralph Faggotter’s Comments : A little probing into the subject of drug advertising on doctors’ computers shows that self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry of it’s own Code of Conduct doesn’t work and should be replaced by a government regulator with real teeth.

Full text:

Study finds drug ads breaching code
Author: Annabel Stafford
Date: 26/07/2005
The Financial Review, Page: 7

Most medicine advertisements in prescribing software used by 90 per cent
of general practitioners do not comply with the drug industry’s
advertising code of conduct, according to a new study.

But the regulator has failed to issue a single fine to eight
pharmaceutical companies accused of misleading advertising and other
misdemeanours, the regulator’s minutes have revealed.

The study, published in The Medical Journal of Australia, claimed there
were breaches in 95 per cent of ads including a claim from the
manufacturers of anti-arthritis drug Celebrex that there was a large
body of clinical evidence showing no significant increase in the risk of
heart disease among users, despite trials showing the opposite.

But while the regulator Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct Committee
agreed with at least nine alleged breaches identified by the study, the
only penalty it imposed was to make the offenders revise future ads.

The decisions showed self-regulation was failing, said the lead author
of the study, La Trobe University School of Public Health senior
lecturer Ken Harvey.

“The worse penalty they’ve got is being asked not to do it again.”

PHARM the body that advises the government on measures needed to achieve
safe and quality use of medicines has backed Dr Harvey’s call for a
banning of ads in doctor-prescribing software. The Australian Consumers’
Association has also backed calls for a ban.

Dr Harvey said the industry repeatedly claimed the shame of being
identified as an offender was enough deterrent. But “the shame [doesn’t
work] . . . there are no meaningful penalties”.

An editorial accompanying the study said that in 2003-04, 41 complaints
were agreed to by the regulator, but fines were meted out in only 12
cases at an average cost to offenders of $17,083.


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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