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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 2360

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

Dearne K.
Thumbs down for pill pop-ups
Australian IT 2005 Aug 23,7208,16349683%5E15321%5E%5Enbv%5E15306,00.html

HCN splash screen Medical Director software


Ralph Faggotter’s Comments: Health Communications Network (HCN) which produces Australia’s most widely used medical record and prescribing software has decided that the latest edition of this program (called MD3) will no longer have full-screen pop-up ads for drugs at the moment the doctor presses the ‘prescription print’ button.
The reason for HCN’s change of heart is unclear but it might have something to do with embarrassment induced by public exposure of this issue. Unfortunately there are still plenty of drug ads left on the software. Should the ALP win the next Federal election, Julia Gillard (shadow health spokesperson) is on the record as sayiong she will seek to get rid of the ads from Medical Record and Prescribing software altogether. see- where she states(towards the end of her speech)- “ 4. Curbing pharmaceutical promotion
The self regulation of pharmaceutical industry promotions has allowed too many inappropriate activities in this area. While I understand the need to provide doctors with up-to-date information about the products they are prescribing, there are some promotional activities that are well outside the educational sphere.

At the very least, all advertising should be banned from doctors’ prescribing software and I support such a ban being implemented.”

Full text:

Australian IT

Thumbs down for pill pop-ups
Karen Dearne
AUGUST 23, 2005

HEALTH Communication Network claims the latest version of its Medical Director software has “less advertising interference”.

The move is a concession to controversy over drug ads flashing up on doctors’ computer screens during consultations.

HCN, which has just begun a “controlled release” of MD 3.0, says “annoying splash screen advertisements” that appeared during printing had been removed.

In removing the pop-ups, which appeared while scripts or test results were being printed using MD 2.0, HCN is apparently responding to doctors’ complaints that the ads attracted comments from patients and slowed workflow.

Ken Harvey, co-author of a Medical Journal of Australia study calling for a ban on pharmaceutical promotions in medical software, said axing the printing pop-up was “only cosmetic” and “a sop to public opinion”.

The move would not reduce doctors’ exposure to advertising on their desktops, said Dr Harvey, a senior lecturer at La Trobe University’s School of Public Health.

“As researchers found, these ads are placed in some 24 clinical functions in the software, so eliminating one is pretty cynical, really,” he said. “You could argue that the one place where advertising is least effective in changing prescribing behaviour is after the clinical decision has been made and the script is printing.

HCN can congratulate themselves on having done something, but I’m sure it won’t affect the advertising revenue one iota.”

Drug firms spend more than $340 million annually targeting Australian GPs, according to CAMM Pacific market research.

Electronic channels, including websites and prescribing software, account for 2 per cent of that, or about $6.8 million.

Advertisers paid more for “exclusive” placements in clinical function areas such as cardio-vascular risk and body-mass-index calculators, and diabetes or asthma screens, Dr Harvey said.

Research published in the Medical Journal suggests many of the ads in MD 2.0 do not comply with Medicines Australia code of conduct that governs marketing to doctors.

Medicines Australia technical affairs director Deborah Monk said its code of conduct committee found “a number of advertisements that were not fully compliant”, and members had been directed to change them.

There had been confusion over definitions of primary and short advertisements, and some companies had mistakenly believed strip or banner ads were short and did not require full disclosure, she said.

“It’s not the format but the inclusion of a promotional claim that determines whether it’s a primary ad,” she said.

“If any ad, regardless of size, includes a claim, information including the company name and PBS status must be supplied.”

Meanwhile, HCN and CAMM Pacific have parted ways three months after the federal Privacy Commissioner investigated a complaint that patient information may have been “inappropriately disclosed by doctors to CAMM via HCN’s Medical Director software”.

This report appears on


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