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Healthy Skepticism Updates

Update 2008-09-17

Healthy Skepticism Update September 2008

This months’s International News feature

“Is the American Academy of Pediatrics Helping Babies R Us Promote Formula?”
Matt Anderson’s article examines the confusing involvement of the AAP in a catalogue distributed to doctor’s waiting rooms amongst other places. See if you think the AAP should have endorsed information in this booklet, when the primary aim of the publication was to advance sales, including sales of breast-milk substitutes, rather than to educate.

Healthy Skepticism, the MHRA and paroxetine

Earlier this year, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency commissioned Market Sentinel to conduct a stakeholder analysis, looking at web traffic about Seroxat (paroxetine). The report shows that Healthy Skepticism has played an important role. This is an extract:

“The key table is perhaps the “Betweenness” table showing as it does how the Healthy Skepticism blog (sic) is present as a link in an astonishing 29.85% of all the “random walks” in this network and Aubrey Blumsohn’s Scientist Misconduct blog has 28.54% and the Fiddaman blog is not far behind on 18.08%. The MHRA is present on 12.01% of walks and the BMJ and GSK trail far behind, with scores around 6%. In an analysis of a mainstream topic one would expect the Betweenness rankings to be dominated by conventional media (e.g. BBC) or generalist information sites. It is highly unusual that sites with strong agendas occupy this position…The Betweenness scores tell us that the running in this story has been dominated by bloggers. They are linking the vast majority of influencers and providing information to them…”

The full report is available here: (Warning: 12.6MB file. Report begins on p.217.)

Healthy Skepticism’s prominence in this report is due mostly to our work to call attention to the lack of evidence of efficacy and safety of paroxetine and other SSRIs used for depression in adolescents. See, for example: and:

Jureidini JN, McHenry LB, Mansfield PR.
Clinical trials and drug promotion: Selective reporting of study 329
International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine 2008 May;20(1-2):73-81

Shahram Ahari at IFMSA Conference

You will recall we asked recently for donations to enable former drug rep, Shahram Ahari, to speak at the International Federation of Medical Students Associations General Assembly. Here are some extracts from his report:

“Eight years ago I left my job as a former sales representative for Eli Lilly who sold Prozac and Zyprexa well to work in public health and health advocacy. The past 2 years in particular I have focused on issues related to pharma. My primary area of interest (and knowledge) is drug marketing; secondary is global health issues related to medicines. I lecture health professionals, speak to the press, defend helpful legislation and advise law makers on relevant policies as my preferred methods of advocacy…

Right now, I’m at the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) General Assembly Conference (compliments of several donations from Healthy Skepticism members who have funded my travel) where I’ve finished a series of presentations on pharma marketing, global health and related issues - my first international presentations. The results have been excellent and we (the American Medical Students Association and I) are capitalizing on the momentum created…

My presentations have translated well and are relevant to the experiences in other countries…”

So, many thanks to those members and subscribers who helped.

Honorary membership for student campaigners

Students are very important to Healthy Skepticism. We would be grateful if you would alert student health professionals to the following new policy.
Healthy Skepticism is now offering free Honorary Membership to all student health professionals, in any country, who have contributed their time to campaigning in accord with the aims of Healthy Skepticism. This offer lasts as long as they are still students.
Honorary members have the same benefits as paid members. They can join our international email discussion list, access more of our website and can participate in elections for our management group.
If you would like to nominate a student who might like to take up this offer, or take it up yourself, please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

In other news…

HealthNewsReview. Several Healthy Skepticism members have agreed to be available to journalists seeking expert sources who do not have financial ties to drug or medical device manufacturers. The list of experts compiled so far by journalists Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer is at

“Life before pharmaceutical profits! Patents can be deadly". Action against AIDS Germany have invited us all to visit to learn how patents prevent access to medical care for some people, and to support this campaign. 

The New Epidemic.  DVDs of The New Epidemic are now available, and are a great tool for educating students or colleagues about the dangers of disease mongering and some of the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing strategies. The New Epidemic is 25 minutes long and uses a humorous narrative to explore the unhealthy influence that the drug industry can have over health professionals, patients and the public. Spice up your next conference or lecture - this DVD is guaranteed to generate some lively debate! To check out a promo on YouTube go to:
To purchase a copy, please contact producer Miranda Burne on .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)



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