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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19910

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

Margo J
Drug Firm Quits After Findings on Complaints
The Sydney Morning Herald 1989 Oct 267

Full text:

A large pharmaceutical company has resigned from its industry association rather than accept findings that its behaviour was unethical and that it should be sanctioned. The action undermines the future of self-regulation in the pharmaceutical industry.

Smith Kline & French Laboratories (Australia) Ltd (SK&F) promoted its vaccine for hepatitis B direct to schools this year and implied that all children were at risk of infection.

The company was criticised for promoting a prescription substance direct to the public and for presenting unbalanced information about risk factors.

The Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (APMA), which regulates promotion in the industry and has been reviewing complaints about SK&F’s vaccine promotion, told the company last week it would have to send a retraction letter to schools involved, saying it had overstated the need for vaccination. The APMA would also publish information about this in the Medical Journal.

Instead of agreeing to the sanctions, the company resigned from the APMA, effectively removing itself from its power.

SK&F’s schools promotion breached the APMA’s code of conduct, the association found .

APMA’s chief executive officer, Mr Kerry Bell, said yesterday the company’s resignation was “an inappropriate response” to a decision by its peers.

The managing director of SK&F, Mr Robert Mansfield, was unavailable for comment last night.

In his resignation letter, he said the self-regulatory process had“degenerated to an alarming level” and had “reached an unacceptable level of acrimony and duplicity”.

The APMA had “allowed external influences to intrude to the point where balanced judgment and fairness are being denied”.


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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