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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 2243

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: Journal Article

Loke TW, Koh FC, Ward JE.
Pharmaceutical advertisement claims in Australian medical publications.
Med J Aust 2002 Sep 16; 177:(6):291-3
http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/177_06_160902/lok10004_fm.html


Abstract:

OBJECTIVE: To determine the quality of claims in advertisements published in Australian medical publications, describe how benefits and harms are presented, and examine the level of underpinning evidence. DESIGN AND SETTING: Audit of a consecutive three-month sample of advertisements appearing in six popular Australian medical publications. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Proportion of advertisements with quantitative information; proportion of claims conveying clinical outcomes; where retrievable, level of underpinning evidence. RESULTS: Of 1504 claims, 855 could be substantiated quantitatively. Of these, 45% were supported by compelling evidence (randomised controlled trials or better). Of 13 claims explicitly reporting quantitative outcomes, none provided the absolute risk reduction or the number needed to treat. CONCLUSIONS: Our audit invites greater diligence by pharmaceutical companies in substantiating their claims and greater vigilance among clinicians when reading them.

Keywords:
Advertising* Australia Data Interpretation, Statistical Deception Disclosure* Drug Evaluation/statistics & numerical data* Drug Industry* Evidence-Based Medicine Humans Periodicals Risk Treatment Outcome content analysis Australia journal advertisements evidence absolute risk reduction number needed to treat EVALUATION OF PROMOTION: JOURNAL ADVERTISEMENTS PROMOTIONAL TECHNIQUES: JOURNAL ADVERTISEMENTS

 

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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