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Healthy Skepticism Updates

Healthy Skepticism Update 21 November 2010

HS International News issue: Public information as a marketing tool: Promotion of diseases and medicines
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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Survey: Your views on Healthy Skepticism
Already over 200 people have expressed a wide range of views about Healthy Skepticism via our brief anonymous survey. Your views are important to us so please express them at:
We will be publishing a summary of the results with responses to many of the views expressed by our subscribers and members. We will use the results to help us set priorities for 2010.

New Book: The Risks of Prescription Drugs
We mentioned this book in the previous HS Update. Since then the editor Donald Light has told us that the best way to buy his book is from Amazon:


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