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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 4480

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

Mak HK.
Drug influences.
Australian Doctor Weekly 2003 Jul 17

Full text:

EDITOR With regard to Dr Peter Mansfield’s letter (‘Drug reps: Friend or foe?’, 27 June), might I point out that newspaper editors are at liberty to publish any comments they deem fit. Besides, who has “special expertise” on any issue? Some recognised authorities or self-presumed experts?

Healthy scepticism should be buttressed by critical appraisal. By commonsense, relying on information solely from any party — with or without vested interests — carries risks of suboptimal conduct. Dr Mansfield wrote that “psychological evidence shows that overconfidence in drug company information makes us vulnerable to being misled”. We do not need research to reaffirm commonsense. By definition, overconfidence is faulty and may mislead. No evidence is needed.

Drug reps influence all doctors’ prescribing. So do advertisements. The question is: how much influence? They furnish information about brands, new drugs or new findings. The information is useful if doctors prudently make their own decision. No worthy doctor would simply accept things on face value, be these clinical presentations or drug representations. And why drug companies do what they do does not concern us doctors.

As for gift-taking, can the good righteous doctor define what is meant by gift? A cake, a banquet, a note pad, a pen, or a voucher for purchase of instruments and what-nots? Would such meagre gifts bribe a doctor towards suboptimal prescribing?

Dr Hing Kwok Mak, Dubbo, NSW


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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963