Healthy Skepticism
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Introduction to Healthy Skepticism

This is the introduction to Healthy Skepticism that appeared on our old website.


Healthy Skepticism is a largely voluntary organisation of concerned individuals who collectively aim to bring about improvements in the area of pharmaceutical advertising, prescribing and usage for the benefit of the health of communities across the world.
Healthy Skepticism’s Aims

1. Improving health by reducing harm from inappropriate, misleading or unethical marketing of health products or services, especially misleading pharmaceutical promotion.

2. Investigating and communicating about marketing practices.

3. Promoting healthy skepticism about marketing practices via advocacy, research and education.

4. Developing, supporting and evaluating initiatives to reduce harmful marketing practices, including reform of regulations and incentives.

5. Developing, implementing and evaluating educational strategies to improve health care decision making, including evaluation of drug promotion.

6. Supporting compassionate, appropriate, sustainable, evidence-based health care, provided according to need, for optimal health outcomes.

7. Providing practical opportunities to advance the aims of Healthy Skepticism Inc.


The ways in which we attempt to achieve these Aims are-

  * Raising Awareness
  * Lobbying Health Authorities
  * Engaging Constructively with the Pharmaceutical Industry
  * Providing support for like-minded individuals and organisations

Underlying Principles
There are good grounds for believing that the overall effect of direct promotion by pharmaceutical companies of prescription medications to both doctors and the public alike leads to both sub-optimal health outcomes and unnecessarily high expenditures on pharmaceuticals.

If the current system were changed to prohibit direct advertising to doctors and instead a comprehensive program of post-graduate medical education, funded independently of the pharmaceutical industry were instituted in all countries, then quality of medical prescribing would significantly improve. Further improvements would occur if the common practice of pharmaceutical companies providing gifts to doctors were also banned. The improvements would result from-

  * More Rational Prescribing
  * Lower Costs to patients, governments and insurers due to more appropriate prescribing patterns
  * More money freed up for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research

Furthermore, the well-founded and increasing suspicion of much of the general population, that doctors prescribing patterns are influenced for the worst by drug company gifts and advertising would be allayed and the trust in (and status of) the medical profession would improve.

Our Approach
The philosophical framework within which we try to operate is based on our identity statement.We support the principle that any claims made regarding a medication (or other health product) should be clearly supportable by good quality evidence. The onus to supply the evidence should be on the person, organisation or company making the claim, rather than on the sceptic to refute an unsubstantiated claim. These principles apply equally to alternative medicine ( complementary medicine) as they do to orthodox medicine. Many people mistakenly assume that because we are sceptical about pharmaceutical company claims regarding prescription medicines, that we will be unconditionally supportive of herbal medicine. However, the only rational position to adopt is to be universally cautious about accepting any claims whether from Big Pharma or a small herbal brewer.

The Challenge
The challenge facing Healthy Skepticism is to achieve our goals from a base of very limited resources in the face of strong opposition from powerful vested interests. This may seem like a rather daunting task but we have already had some successes. The press and public alike are increasingly coming to see the logic of our position.

Start or Join a Branch of Healthy Skepticism in your Area
There are many people around the world who share our views but who feel a sense of powerlessness as individuals when considering the obstacles they must overcome to make a difference. These individuals agree with our Aims, Methods and Principles and can relate to or Identity Statement and Brand Personality.

Perhaps you are one of these people?

Perhaps you too feel a sense of frustration about the undesirable aspects of pharmaceutical advertising and the influence of the pharmaceutical industry over the medical profession and policy makers?

If so then we invite you to join Healthy Skepticism and where possible to join a local branch of Healthy Skepticism in your town, city, or area. The same principle applies as for the environment movement- i.e. “Think globally, act locally.”

Also on this page learn about:
> What’s new
> The problem: Misleading drug promotion
> Our response: Healthy Skepticism Inc
> Free news, membership and other options for you
> What’s on our web site

What’s new
New on our web site
Publications by us, mentioning our work or relevant to drug promotion

Misleading drug promotion:
- Harms health and wastes money.
- Relying on information from drug companies is a risk factor for inappropriate use of medicines.

Snake oil advertisementVioxx advertisement
Snake Oil 1893
"A wonderful pain destroying compound…     The strongest and best linament for the cure of all pain and lameness"
Vioxx 2004
"Sometimes you can improve two lives with a single prescription… A step in the right direction."

Healthy Skepticism Inc
Our main aim: Improving health by reducing harm from misleading drug promotion. Our aims
We are an international non-profit organisation for everyone with an interest in improving health care. About us
From 1983 to 2002 our name was the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing (MaLAM). Our history

  “Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science…
  The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception…
  we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.”
  - William Osler…to the Ontario Medical Association, June 1909
Cartoon: What can one person do?
What can one person do? Answer: Join a group!
Snake oil advertisement
Little fish together are larger than big fish
What others say about us:

  “ 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, Nobel prize winner Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are palpably* 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 [e.g. NoFreeLunch, Social Audit].”
  - Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.
  Full text free after registration on the Lancet web site
  * This is a correction to accord with the author’s original intention.
  Comments on our work

Free news and other options for you
Keep up to date with our analyses of drugs and drug promotion:
- become a free subscriber
If you want more:
- become a paid subscriber
Join us:
- become a member
Support us:
- become a contributor

What’s on our web site
The main public sections of our website are:
About Healthy Skepticism
    by us
mentioning our work
relevant to drug promotion
    listed on medline
not listed on medline
Other public sections

There are also sections for:
Paid subscribers only
Members only

Can’t find what you are looking for?
Please try our Site map or our Search page. If that fails please contact our Webmaster.

Our aim is to keep the design of this web site simple so that it loads quickly and is easy to read with any browser.

We welcome feedback and we understand that a complaint is a gift.


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