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Healthy Skepticism Updates

Update 2008-08-09

Healthy Skepticism in the Media

Recent media appearances include:

* Peter Mansfield - Salud, El Mundo, Spain, 31 May

* Ken Harvey, Jon Jureidini - Australia Talks, Radio National, Australia, 23 July:

* Peter Mansfield - Worldview, Chicago Public Radio, USA, 29 July:

Support for the next generation of healthy skeptics

On 22 July we received a request from the American Medical Students Association for US$ 1,315 to enable a whistle-blowing former drug rep, Shahram Ahari, to speak at the General Assembly of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. We asked our supporters for donations and are very pleased to report that have already received pledges for almost all the money needed. If you would like to make a donation to support this or other projects to help student health professionals please tell Robyn Clothier: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) how much money you would like to give and what country you live in.

Healthy Skepticism International News

Available at

August 2008 Vol 26 No 8

Pushing Pills: A CHOICE Research Report

There is strong evidence to indicate that pharmaceutical promotion is not in the best interests of consumers. It can lead to inappropriate prescribing practices which expose consumers to unnecessary risk. It also may not be in the interests of taxpayers. In this report, the Australian consumers group, CHOICE, discusses the various ways pharmaceuticals are promoted to doctors. They go on to examine advertising in doctors’ publications over a 12-month period and look more closely at drugs used to treat high blood pressure.

July 2008 Vol 26 No 7

Book review By Melissa Raven

A brief review of Living under liberalism: The politics of depression in western democracies, by Pam Stavropoulos

June 2008 Vol 26 No 6

La incierta prevención del cáncer de cuello de útero con la vacuna contra el virus del papiloma humano. Rev Port Clín Geral. 2007;23: 547-55

By Juan Gérvas ‘Prevention of cervical cancer by the HPV vaccine is not definitive.’ Abstract with Eleven Questions & Answers in Spanish and English. English translation by Juan Gérvas and Joana Ramos

Many other recent publications by Healthy Skepticism members are referenced at

Director’s presentations in 2008

So far this year, Healthy Skepticism director Peter Mansfield has given 34 presentations and had many more conversations about drug promotion in 23 cities in Europe, Nth America and Australasia. One conversation was with Matthew Anderson who posted an entry about it on the Social Medicine blog.

Peter has concluded: “Whilst the details differ from place to place, the important issues are the same. Everywhere there seems to be 5 stages we need to help people to go through to help us achieve our aim of reducing harm from misleading drug promotion:

1. Becoming aware that misleading drug promotion is an important problem.

We can help by telling people about avoidable drug disasters caused by misleading promotion.

2. Understanding the problem.

Some people think the main problem is bad people intentionally causing harm. I think the main problem is unintended bias amongst good people in bad systems. People are more vulnerable to misleading promotion if they are overconfident about their ability to resist it. If people feel accused of intentionally causing harm they will respond with denial and reactance. To win support we need to help people accept that all good people, including themselves, have human strengths including potential for compassion, imagination and humour etc but also human weaknesses including vulnerability to misleading persuasion regardless of intelligence, education and good intentions etc.

3. Deciding what changes are needed.

If the problem was only bad people then the solution would be easy: replace them. If part of the problem is good people in bad systems then we must change the systems. Doing so would solve the bad people problem also. Many people are working on understanding the details of the problems but few people are working on developing solutions. Around the world there has been high levels of agreement with the Healthy Skepticism reform agenda for system changes: improve regulation, improve incentive systems, improve treatment decision-making.

4. Becoming optimistic.

Many people are pessimistic that the changes needed are achievable. Such pessimism can be self-fulfilling by reducing willingness to act in ways that could be effective or provide opportunities for learning. Some people can be helped to become more optimistic by being told about the experiences of people I met in Berlin and Belfast. In those cities change was like an earthquake - it seemed that nothing was happening but forces were building up that gradually reached a tipping point releasing sudden dramatic changes that surprised all but the most optimistic.

5. Deciding to work alone or together.

Inevitably many of the leaders working on drug promotion issues are independent thinkers who do not naturally work together. It is useful to consider:

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

- African proverb”

If you want to go together, please get more involved in Healthy Skepticism Inc. To do that - please contact Robyn Clothier .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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