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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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