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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 6906

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

Alper PR.
Direct-to-consumer advertising: education or anathema?
JAMA 1999 Oct 6; 282:(13):1226-7


In support of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) Holmer plays down the inflationary effect; there is no corresponding lobby for drugs with lower profit potential. Profitability supersedes the presentation of balanced information. He neglects the role of managed care; manufacturers run around cost containment efforts of managers by going directly to patients to create demand. He does not discuss the effects on physicians who become involuntary appendages of manufacturers’ public relations departments. Cost shifting is eroding the close and collaborative relationship that physicians once had with the pharmaceutical industry. Holmer hints that physicians should not complain because they share the wealth created by DTC advertising. Such collusion would ultimately erode the barriers to cost-effective prescribing.

*letter to the editor/United States/ Advertising* Cost Allocation Drug Industry*/economics Humans Managed Care Programs/economics Patient Participation* Physician-Patient Relations


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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