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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19796

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: news

Collins G
Call to axe starter packs
6minutes 2012 Jan 23

Full text:

Prescription starter packs should be banned and payments to individual
doctors should be made public under a revised pharma industry code of
conduct, Medicines Australia has been told.

In a submission to Medicines Australia’s Code of Conduct review, Sydney
haematologist Professor Ian Kerridge has called for transparency around
pharmaceutical company sponsorship to be brought into line with the US. See:

He says that starter packs for GPs should be banned or at least Medicines
Australia should be required to regularly collect and report data on the
“extent, nature and distribution” of the prescription products provided
free to doctors.

And he suggests that the Code should not be supporting Product
Familiarisation Programs.

Associate Professor Kerridge insists that promotional material for new drugs
should make it clear when a product has been approved on the basis of
surrogate end-points during trials, rather than on hard endpoints such as
mortality or morbidity.

And he calls for the Code to ensure all healthcare professionals and
research organisations who receive payments from pharmaceutical companies
publically declare it on the Medicines Australia website.

Professor Kerridge also suggests that the Code should not allow pharma
companies to produce public education material or programs relating to their
own products and that it should provide specific guidance for “disease
awareness” campaigns.

He adds that the fines companies face if they breach the Code are “grossly
inadequate” and fail to provide a genuine disincentive for unethical

Medicines Australia is still accepting submissions for its Code of Conduct
review (link) and the 17th edition of the Code is due to be released in
January 2013.


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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