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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 4449

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

Saunders C.
Program targets drug rep input.
Australian Doctor Weekly 2004 Sep 1


Full text:

A program aimed at medical students is being developed to curb doctors’ reliance on pharmaceutical representatives for drug information.

Dr Peter Mansfield, a GP and research fellow at the University of Adelaide’s department of general practice, said there were at least 13 observational studies that showed the more GPs relied on drug companies for information, the less medically appropriate their prescribing was.

A new study conducted by Dr Mansfield, director of drug advertising watchdog Healthy Skepticism, and colleagues suggested targeting medical students might be an appropriate way to effect behaviour change.

In the study, 119 second-year medical students were randomised to read an article that presented a moral-based argument that receiving drug company gifts was inappropriate, or an evidence-based argument about unintended bias and harm for patients from relying on drug company information.

The results showed both strategies were equally effective. However, a small number of students were annoyed by the articles and said they were more likely to accept pharmaceutical company gifts and see drug reps.

Dr Mansfield said Healthy Skepticism would develop a teaching package on the ethics of doctor-drug company relationships for use by medical schools, a move supported by Professor Max Kamien, former head of general practice at the University of WA.

Professor Kamien said such a teaching package would be helpful as long as the modules were balanced and drug companies were allowed to put their view.

 

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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