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Healthy Skepticism Updates

Healthy Skepticism Update 16 December 2010

Can Healthy Skepticism own an academic journal?
In the previous HS Update we mentioned that we had been offered an opportunity to become the owner of an established medline listed, peer reviewed academic journal. We invited potential subscribers and authors to express their views about this opportunity via a survey. We thank the 72 people who responded. The survey is now closed. The responses indicate that we have enough potential authors and reviewers to support a journal. However it is unlikely that we have enough potential subscribers willing to pay large enough subscriptions to support the current costs of the journal that was offered to us. At our current growth rate we may be able to support a journal within a few years.

Survey: Your views on Healthy Skepticism
We thank the 315 people who responded to our survey of views about our association. This survey is now closed. We will publish on our website soon a report on the results and present summaries of key issues in future HS Updates.

Videos of Selling Sickness conference Amsterdam 2010 now available
Videos of all the talks presented at the Selling Sickness international conference in Amsterdam on 7 and 8 October 2010 are now available at:

There is one video each for the following 7 sections of the conference:

Day 1 - Thursday 7 October
1. What is selling sickness and is it for real?
Welcome and opening - Ruud Coolen van Brakel
Where science meets marketing - Ray Moynihan
Industry’s role in informing the public - Brian Ager
DSM-V Opening Pandora’s Box - Allen Frances

2. What new methods are being used?
The Dutch situation, supervision and law enforcement - Josée Hansen
Clinical trials as disease mongering instruments - Trudy Dehue
Social Media and Pharma: Support or new commercial channel to care? - Rob Halkes

3. Learning from documented examples
Promotion to the public: European disease awareness campaigns - Teresa Alves
Promotion of prescription medicines to physicians and the public - Dee Mangin

4. Who pays the bill?
The influence on rational use of medicine - Kees de Joncheere
The influence on patients - Ilaria Passarani
Redesigning the incentives for the pharmaceutical industry - Dean Baker

Day 2 - Friday 8 October
5. Redesigning the system?
Financial and insurance aspects - Henk Eleveld
Independent information for patients - Hilda Bastian

6. The need for new regulations and guidelines
Self regulation on disease promotion - Lode Wigersma
Regulation of pharmaceutical promotion - Graham Dukes
Guidelines and HTA - Meindert Boysen

7. New responsibilities for main stakeholders?
Prize ‘best poster’
The industry: partner in solutions? - Michel Dutrée
Should the Medicines Evaluation Board be involved? - Bert Leufkens
International Cooperation - Peter Mansfield
Final panel discussion: towards a joint statement
Closing remarks - Ruud Coolen van Brakel


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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963