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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19628

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: Electronic Source

Schwitzer G
Journalists weigh in on Pfizer-pfunded & other pharma-phunded journalism 'events'
Health News Review Blog 2011 Sep 16

Full text:

Andrew Holtz updates us on what he calls Pfizer’s “attempts to co-opt journalists” by sponsoring various journalism “events.”

As Holtz notes, it’s an old and sore subject with me. Several concerned journalists within the past two years have criticized the National Press Foundation (NPF) for accepting Pfizer money for all-expenses-paid trips for journalists to come to Washington to learn about cancer and Alzheimer’s disease issues – both of which topics are in Pfizer’s product line. NPF has now started accepting Novo Nordisk money for a journalism event on diabetes issues as well.

I was scheduled to meet with NPF staff to discuss my concerns last January but the meeting was cancelled because of a DC snowfall. I have simply been too busy to continue to pursue this issue and have let it gather dust, so I am pleased to see that others will not let it die.

Indeed, we should be having an international dialogue on pharma’s influence – something I wrote about last year after an international “Selling Sickness” conference in Amsterdam.

One international voice has weighed in – Italian journalist Maria Amelia Beltramini Boveri – whom I met at a European health journalism event in the UK, argues against pharma-sponsored press events. She encourages a discussion on a listserv of European journalists.

Nice work.


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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