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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 20469

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

Mansfield PR
Drug Marketing in the Third World
National News The Royal College of General Practitioners 1984 Aug

Full text:

Founder and coordinator of the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing (MLAM), Dr Peter Mansfield, reports on the dangerous impact of some pharmaceuticals in Third World countries.

Dr Mansfield, an FMP 1 trainee, is undertaking a general practice tern at the Lyell McEwin Health Service, Elizabeth Vale, South Australia. His medical course at Flinder’s University (SA), included a major sequence in Asian studies and a final year elective in Bangladesh observing a paramedical approach to primary health care.

You may have seen the June 1984 Four Corners report on the dubious pharmaceutical marketing that occurs in Bangladesh. The programme showed a boy deformed by the use of anabolic steroids which had been advertised as efficacious for normal growth and weight gain and that the drugs were safe for children and infants. The programme also showed a woman dying of aplastic anaemia after taking chloramphericol which was advertised for relieving headaches.

Some international pharmaceutical companies are not aware of the lack of access to pharmacological information in Third World communities and often promote the use of drugs for questionable indications, and neglect to mention significant adverse effects. Many drugs which have been banned or never permitted in Australia are sold in countries which have not developed regulatory authorities.

The inappropriate advertising of tonics, enzymes, vitamin and antibiotic combinations often lead to wasting the scarce resources of the poor. About 3 million infant deaths each yea are associated with the inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Inappropriate marketing is widespread throughout the developing nations, which together buy US$20 billion of drugs annually.

The Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing (MLAM), based in Adelaide, has established some influence over pharmaceutical companies to upgrade the quality of their advertising in the Third World countries. Each month MLAM produces letters of concern about drug usage as well as offering positive suggestions for safer marketing.

The MLAM editorial board, which includes professors of pharmacology, microbiology and paediatrics, spans Australia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Active MLAM members receive the MLAM letters, sign them and send the letters to the manufacturers.

MLAM requests drug companies to provide adequate information about efficacy and adverse effects of their products, so that informed local decisions can be made about appropriate use of the drugs.

Two pharmaceutical companies have responded well to MLAM’s campaign and have become members of the lobby group.

MLAM formed in November 1983 and has 130 members spanning seven countries. Membership is open to all, but doctors and pharmacists are particularly welcome. Membership costs $25 a year and five minutes in time per month. For more details about MLAM, write to 22 Renaissance Arcade, Adelaide, 5000.

Peter Mansfield will be addressing the Resident Medical Officers’ club, Friday Forum on November 9, at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Contact the Royal Melbourne for more details.


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