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Healthy Skepticism International News

The Healthy Skepticism Mangement Group decided in March 2011 to discontinue Healthy Skepticism International News. It had been published nearly once a month since 2000. It was a continuation of MaLAM News and MaLAM letters that commenced in 1983.

The last Int News issue was:

Public information as a marketing tool: Promotion of diseases and medicines
November 2010
Sandra van Nuland and Zamire Damen work for Gezonde scepsis (Healthy Skepticism in The Netherlands). They have produced a report on pharmaceutical promotion via"information" for the general public. As part of this research, they examined campaigns around restless legs syndrome (RLS), overactive bladder (OAB) and heartburn. These three case studies demonstrate that elements of the public information are not in accordance with the guidelines set by the Dutch General Practitioners Society (NHG). For example, information about side effects and information about when medicinal intervention is warranted.

In collaboration with the Dutch critical consumer programme Tros Radar, a fake public information campaign around the issue of flatulence was designed, in order to demonstrate the mechanisms typically used in these campaigns and their effects on the public. They established a fictitious company with its own website (,, and commissioned TNS NIPO to carry out research into the disease burden. Promotional materials were prepared and distributed to GP surgeries, pharmacies and through the website. Based on the research conducted by TNS NIPO, they sent out a press release and quickly obtained the desired results: flatulence got a lot of attention in the media.
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If there is something you don't like, please tell us. If you like our work, please tell others. influence multinational corporations effectively, the efforts of governments will have to be complemented by others, notably the many voluntary organisations that have shown they can effectively represent society’s public-health interests…
A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.