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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 5237

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: Journal Article

Harvie J.
Rebels with a cause: The constant campaigner
Australian Doctor 2006 Mar 31; 20


Full text:

The constant campaigner
DR Peter Mansfield (right) was doing his student elective in Bangladesh
back in 1981 when he saw advertising by an international drug company
recommending anabolic steroids be used to treat malnourished children.
“I was appalled,” recalls the GP from Willunga, SA. “At the time, I was
trying to work out where I wanted to go with my medical career and
decided I might be able to do something about [misleading drug promotion].”
Dr Mansfield adopted a strategy used by Amnesty International. He
started writing letters outlining his concerns about various drugs and sent
copies to doctors around the world who signed them and sent them on to
the relevant drug company.
The organisation Dr Mansfield founded back in 1983 – the Medical Lobby
for Appropriate Marketing, or MaLAM – has now evolved into Healthy
Skepticism, an information network with 100 paid-up members and more than
1000 free subscribers around the world. About 70% of subscribers are
doctors and about 70% of those are GPs, Dr Mansfield says.
One of the biggest wins from his more than 20 years of campaigning was
the withdrawal of a chloramphenicol/streptomycin combination being sold
over the counter for diarrhoea in the Philippines after concerns were raised it might lead to an increase in drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Although he takes a big-picture view, Dr Mansfield says his continuing
practice as a GP is essential. “I don’t get to be in an ivory tower and
I can keep in touch with the realities of being a clinician.”
Healthy Skepticism, has a “complicated” relationship with drug
companies, he says. “There are many good people in the industry … but there
are others who dislike us intensely.”
Nonetheless, he scoffs at the film ‘The Constant Gardener, which gives
the impression drug companies will murder people who question their
porducts. “I’ve been working in this field for nearly 25 years and I’ve not been murdered once,” he says.

The Healthy Skepticism website is at www.healthyskepticism.org

 

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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909