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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 8412

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: report

Langley ZL
Antidote for Misleading Advertising: Healthy Skepticism Inc.
: ShuffleBrain 2007 Feb 11


Antidote for Misleading Advertising: Healthy Skepticism Inc.
Zoë L. Langley, Contributing Editor
From coast to coast numerous states are suing the drug company, Eli Lilly, over the way it advertised and promoted its best selling antipsychotic, Zyprexa. For want of a little more truth in advertising, thousands of drug-related injuries may have been avoided, and many millions of Medicaid dollars better spent.

Lilly has already settled thousands of claims for injuries related to using the drug. It may now be facing criminal complaints over the marketing of Zyprexa. States have spent tens of millions of Medicaid dollars to purchase Zyprexa for its indigent patients. A Medicaid fraud lawsuit filed by Mississippi last July claims physicians were misled by Eli Lilly representatives to prescribe the Zyprexa for off label purposes.

Dr. Peter Mansfield, Director and founder of Healthy Skepticism Inc., has been working to stem the damage caused by deceptive prescription drug advertising for more than twenty years. Headquartered in Willunga, Australia, Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit organization with members in 46 countries. Membership is diverse, including many physicians, health professionals, students, and others interested in improving health. The group sums up its treatment approach to the problem in its slogan, “Countering the harm done by misleading advertising.”

Misleading drug promotion is common and thousands are injured as a result. Lipitor, Vioxx, Fosamax, Zyprexa, these drugs are becoming better known for the injuries linked to them than for any health benefits they may carry. Consumer interest groups, health care providers, consumers, and legislators are fed up with misleading advertising and the damage to health that may result from it. The Government Accounting Office is urging greater regulation and enforcement of existing regulations of direct to consumer advertising, which too often misinforms rather than educates.

Healthy Skepticism sees the problem as multifaceted. Physicians, who prescribe drugs, and companies who sell them are locked in what Mansfield describes as a “vicious cycle.” In this system when drug companies produce misleading promotion they are rewarded with increased sales and when physicians make bad decisions they are rewarded with more gifts.

Healthy Skepticism advocates reforms in the use and marketing of prescription drugs. These include improving how drugs are promoted and health care decision making so that everyone will be less vulnerable.

Patients need to be able to trust that their doctors are well informed about the drugs they prescribe. Physicians are as vulnerable to being misled about prescription drugs as consumers. Like their patients, physicians are willing to trust the advice of a fellow doctor, even when that physician is promoting a drug.

Doctors proved very effective at pitching Vioxx to their colleagues. The Wall Street Journal reported on an internal study conducted by Merck in which this tactic was successful in increasing sales of Vioxx. The Merck study compared the number of Vioxx prescriptions written by doctors who attended lectures given by doctors to those who met with salespeople.

In the year after they were lectured by other doctors, physicians wrote hundreds of dollars more in Vioxx prescriptions than physicians who simply met with salespersons. Doctors helped increase Vioxx sales and patients may have unwittingly paid with their health.

Educating physicians and other health professionals is a major focus of Healthy Skepticism’s work. Mansfield lectures around the world helping other physicians to recognize their vulnerability to misleading advertising and to improve their decision making skills in the use of drug treatment.

Last year Mansfield wrote a chapter for the “World Health Organization/Health Action International Guide to Understanding and Responding to Drug Promotion” [not yet available]. He also co-authored a chapter on drug company sales representatives.

Mansfield is now completing his PhD research which focuses on deciding what can be done about drug promotion. Later he hopes to do research including a controlled trial to determine if teaching family physicians how to evaluate drug promotions will lead to improvement in the quality and cost of drug prescribing. In this trial, physicians will learn principles of healthy skepticism, gaining skill in understanding the way persuasive psychological techniques, including fallacies, are used to promote drugs.

. Healthy Skepticism is establishing TDRE (Treatment Decision Research and Education), at the University of Adelaide. TDRE will focus on what influences physicians in their decision making process when determining treatment for their patients.

Healthy Skepticism has written the text for an “Update on Treatment Decision Making” interactive web site for the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

From its own web site, Healthy Skepticism offers a wide range of resources and advocacy for health professionals, consumers, journalists, researchers, and anyone else wanting to get involved in improving health care. The site includes the following resources:

Library: The Healthy Skepticism library now contains more than 8000 references to articles with a focus on pharmaceutical marketing.

AdWatch: Each edition of AdWatch evaluates and discusses a recently published pharmaceutical advertisement from a medical journal or magazine. The analysis is designed to show the way pharmaceutical advertising directed at doctors can distort information to persuade physicians to prescribe the drug advertised to their patients whether or not this is a wise choice.

In the News: Contains current health-related news articles and press releases from around the world.

Fora: This section contains forums for members and free subscribers to discuss issues related to health and health improvement.

The Healthy Skepticism website also contains additional links to news, information, and resources.

Members of the management team can offer expertise and assistance to journalists, authors, and film producers in research for their work related to issues addressed by Healthy Skepticism. Networking with other groups is important at Healthy Skepticism. They are interested in collaborating with other groups on long or short term projects.

Healthy Skepticism offers opportunities for anyone concerned with how drugs and medical devices are marketed to be actively engaged in the process of education and reform. Mansfield invites physicians, health care professionals, and anyone else interested in improving health to join:

Healthy Skepticism, Inc. (click for web site)


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