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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 5267

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

Fugh-Berman A, Alladin K, Chow J.
Advertising in Medical Journals: Should Current Practices Change?
PLoS Med 2006 Jun 27; 3:(6):e130
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0030130


Notes:

Ralph Faggotter’s Comments:

“As a crucial part of their business model, many medical journals rely on revenue from prescription drug advertisements. “

“Dependence on a single industry can be financially disastrous for a journal that displeases its corporate funders.”

“By exclusively featuring advertisements for drugs and devices, medical journals implicitly endorse corporate promotion of the most profitable products.”

Medical journals should provide an educational function, but they are full of eye-catching ads which provide a counter-educational function.

Furthermore, because medical journals are dependant on drug advertising for their survival, they are under pressure to provide articles which play a supportive role in relation to the advertisements.

Hence the articles chosen for publication by the journal will be slanted towards to provision of information which backs the use of advertised drugs.

Articles critical of drug usage will be less likely to be published.

This tendency has important negative ramifications for the practice of medicine: ramifications which which we can observe in the form of the widespread inappropriate prescribing of whole classes of drugs.

 

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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963