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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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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