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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 4477

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.
New web site targets drug ads.
Australian Doctor Weekly 2003 Oct 10


Full text:

A GROUP of sceptical doctors aiming to wipe out misleading drug advertisements has launched a web site to bring the promotional activities of pharmaceutical companies to account.

Healthy Skepticism Inc, which will run the web site Adwatch, will send copies of advertisements they believe are misleading to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Medicines Australia and other regulatory agencies to encourage them to take action.

The group, originally MaLAM, was founded in 1983 to improve health by reducing harm from misleading drug promotion, will scrutinise drug ads, then post its findings on the web site and call for feedback.

The group said the free site would also explain the “tricks” used in drugs ads and aimed to help doctors, pharmacists and the public defend themselves against misleading drug promotion.

Group founder Dr Peter Mansfield said ads targeting GPs would be the web site’s initial focus, followed by those aimed at specialists.

“I’m a GP … and one of the problems is that we are being bombarded by information and a lot of it is from vested interests,” he said.

Dr Mansfield said drug companies spent $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year on drug promotion, most of which was for expensive new drugs, yet only 3% of new drugs represented significant pharmaceutical advances.

“Drug companies make more money if doctors prescribe expensive drugs, but lower-priced alternatives are often better,” he said.

Medicines Australia director of strategic relations Steve Haynes said it controlled the marketing of medicines by a stringent code of conduct, which complemented rules set out by the Therapeutic Goods Act and Regulations.

The committee overseeing the code was independent of the industry and Medicines Australia, he said.

“The provisions of the code include standards for appropriate advertising, the behaviour of medical representatives and relationships with health care professionals – particularly doctors,” he said.

Cathy Saunders

 

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There is no sin in being wrong. The sin is in our unwillingness to examine our own beliefs, and in believing that our authorities cannot be wrong. Far from creating cynics, such a story is likely to foster a healthy and creative skepticism, which is something quite different from cynicism.”
- Neil Postman in The End of Education