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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19939

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

Hui L, Hayman M
S4 advertising no help
Australian Medicine 1999 Sep 66


Full text:

We are writing in response to a news article (AM, 5 July) about a Therapeutic Goods Advertising Council task force review of direct-to-consumer advertising of S4 items. The article noted that there are no medical representatives on the task force and refers to a comment from the RACGP representative on the Council, Dr Andrea Mant, that, while she does ‘not like direct-to-consumer advertising it was important to be prepared for it’.

Why is it important to be prepared for something that has never existed and need not ever exist? Has the public suddenly developed a need to bypass independent and qualified medical advice when commencing drug therapy? Or is it simply, and more probably, the case that the pharmaceutical manufacturers want direct advertising to assist in maximising their market share and penetration?

Doctors should fight any process that undermines their role of providing independent expert advice to their patients. This role includes explaining all the drug options available to a patient (regardless of manufacturer) and making recommendations based on the patient’s best interest. Brand awareness in patients will only interfere in the therapeutic relationship by creating a distorting influence on medication choice. While advertising may make patients more aware of drug brands, the quality of the advertising information will inevitably be so simplistic and unbalanced that it will not be helpful in patient education.

Although we would all like to believe otherwise, doctors themselves are not immune to the marketing strategies of pharmaceutical companies. Patients are even less well equipped to scrutinise the validity of their advertising claims. We should not allow the pharmaceutical companies to extend their advertising strategies any further.

 

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...to influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.