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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 4481

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

Mansfield PR, Mak HK.
Drug reps: friend or foe?
Australian Doctor Weekly 2003 Jun 24

Full text:

EDITOR I was interviewed for the front-page story about the BMJ’s conclusion that entanglement with drug reps harms patients and GPs (‘GP leaders reject calls for limits on drug rep visits’, 6 June). However, my input was left out in favour of knee-jerk denials from Dr Rob Walters and Dr David Rivett.

They may be experts at saying what some GPs want to hear but they donot have special expertise on this issue.

At least 13 studies have found that relying on drug company information is a risk factor for suboptimal prescribing.

Drug companies would not waste about $1 billion a year on promotion if it did not influence us often enough to provide good return on investment.

Psychological evidence shows that overconfidence makes us vulnerable to being misled.

Gift-taking is a major threat to trust in our profession. Loss of trust and increasing expenditure on new drugs that are poor value for money are depressing our incomes.

If GPs were fully informed about these issues then few of us would be crazy enough to waste time with drug reps.

Dr Peter R Mansfield, Director, Healthy Skepticism, Willunga, SA

EDITOR I refer to the article ‘GP leaders reject calls for limits on drug rep visits’ (6 June) about a BMJ article, based on a GP survey, recommending greater distance between doctors and drug companies..

Since when has a mere surveyor ascended to the autocratic status to dictate – or try to dictate – how GPs should act? How dare they presume themselves to be the lord over GPs?

This is GP-bashing beyond all rhyme and reason. Has the world gone mad? Should GPs surrender their civil liberty just because somebody wants to wield their magic wand?

The whole thing is ridiculous. I am glad I stopped subscribing to the BMJ. It is unthinkable that a “reputable” learned journal should stoop so low as to allow such a suggestion to be considered, let alone go into print. Where are the professional ethics? Is there any human decency left?

Perhaps it is time to turn the tables and look at the vagary and naivety of suggesting limits on journal editors and surveyors regarding their activities and the propriety of their behaviour. How many sponsors and sales agents should they be able to come into contact with?

I propose that GPs all over the world protest strongly against such a blatant insult to their civil rights and dignity, through e-mail or written submissions directly to the BMJ, the “surveyor” or to the local media.

Dr Hing Kwok Mak, Dubbo, NSW


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You are going to have many difficulties. The smokers will not like your message. The tobacco interests will be vigorously opposed. The media and the government will be loath to support these findings. But you have one factor in your favour. What you have going for you is that you are right.
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When truth is unwelcome: the first reports on smoking and lung cancer.