Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

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March 31, 2004

Drug Advertising Not Based on Facts

An investigation of the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine, a private independent research institute in Cologne, has come to the conclusion that advertising of drugs is sorely lacking in scientific backup.

With drug companies spending billions for promotion of their products, one wonders why they can't even get the science right. Unless of course ... the science is hard to get by because their remedies don't work too well. For sure the drug companies have to lean heavily on scientists to 'achieve positive results' and sometimes they do get caught.

Could drug based medicine really be but a business with disease, as detractors claim? No doubt it is a business, but Forbes says it is one to stay away from if you're thinking of investing your life's savings...


By Heidelberg Annette Tuffs
British Medical Journal
February 28, 2004

Original of the article here

A new study of the advertising material and marketing brochures sent out by drug companies to GPs in Germany has shown that about 94% of the information in them has no basis in scientific evidence.

The study, carried out by the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine, a private independent research institute in Cologne, evaluated 175 brochures containing information on 520 drugs, which were either sent by post or handed out to 43 GPs since last June. The study was published in this month's issue of the drugs bulletin Arznei Telegramm (2004;35:21-3;

About 15% of the brochures did not contain any citations, while the citations listed in another 22% could not be found. In the remaining 63% the information was mostly correctly connected with the relevant research articles but did not reflect their results. Only 6% of the brochures contained statements that were scientifically supported by identifiable literature.

The evaluation was done by two specially trained and independently acting reviewers. In cases of doubt a third reviewer was involved.

"This is the first study in Germany evaluating the quality of drug advertising material," says Thomas Kaiser, a scientist at the institute who published the study together with Peter Sawicki and other colleagues.

He points out that the advertising material presents distorted images of the drugs' profiles. The article lists several examples of misrepresentation:

medical guidelines from scientific societies are misquoted or changed, the side effects of drugs are minimised, groups of patient are wrongly defined, study results are suppressed, treatment effects are exaggerated, risks are manipulated, and effects of drugs were drawn from animal studies.

The authors warn that such a high amount of misinformation puts patients' health at risk. Studies from other countries have shown that doctors tend to base their decisions on the information and advertising material sent out by drug companies. Therefore, the authors conclude, an independent institution should be established to monitor the content of such material.

The German drug industry has decided to tighten the rules in its self regulatory code on relations between the industry and the medical profession with regard to cooperation in clinical studies and attendance at conferences that are funded by drug companies.

The German Association of Research Based Pharmaceutical Companies in Berlin announced that its members have set up an independent tribunal in Berlin. Members of the tribunal will be chosen by drug companies and doctors' and patients' groups but will not be elected representatives of those bodies.

Like a court, the tribunal will be able to punish companies that break the rules, imposing fines of up to 50,000 Euro (£34,000; $63,000) or, in the case of a second offence, up to 250,000 Euro. Anyone will be allowed to notify the tribunal of possible offences.

The initiative was the industry's reaction to the German government's threat to install an executive against corruption. Doctors' associations have also tightened their rules on corruption.

More information about the Institute for Evidence-Based Medicine can be found on its website:

Comments a friend from New Zealand: "This would seem to park 'real' medicine alongside placebo..." and incredibly, there seems to be no existing standard for formulating a placebo. It seems ingredients are adjusted in accordance with the anticipated test results.

See also related:

Big Bucks, Big Pharma pulls back the curtain on the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to expose the insidious ways that illness is used, manipulated, and often created, for profit. Focusing on the industry's marketing practices, the video shows how direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising glamorizes prescription drugs, and works to reinforce drug promotion to doctors. Pharmaceutical Research is seen as essentially uncontrolled and heavily skewed. Ultimately, Big Bucks, Big Pharma challenges us to ask important questions about the consequences of relying on a for-profit industry for our health and well-being.

British Medical Journal article:
Only 6% of drug advertising material is supported by evidence

Conflicts of Interest in Research

Direct to consumer ads can be misleading, say researchers

Revealed: how drug firms 'hoodwink' medical journals

Drug Companies spend $ millions lobbying

Giant Floating Purple Pills

Pharmaceuticals no longer good investment, says Forbes

Doctor jailed for making up research for a drug experiment

Pharmaceutical Science Based Myth: how drug firms 'hoodwink' medical journals

Ads for drugs under fire
Bringing a drug to market is an expensive endeavour. Building a market for a drug can be pricey too. Pharmaceutical companies contend drug prices must be high to fund research and development. Yet these same companies typically spend twice as much on marketing and administration as they do on drug discovery.

THE WASHINGTON POST - Doctors Influenced By Mention Of Drug Ads
Actors pretending to be patients with symptoms of stress and fatigue were five times as likely to walk out of doctors' offices with a prescription when they mentioned seeing an ad for the heavily promoted antidepressant Paxil, according an unusual study being published today. The study employed an elaborate ruse -- sending actors with fake symptoms into 152 doctors' offices to see whether they would get prescriptions. Most who did not report symptoms of depression were not given medications, but when they asked for Paxil, 55 percent were given prescriptions, and 50 percent received diagnoses of depression. The study adds fuel to the growing controversy over the estimated $4 billion a year the drug industry spends on such advertising. Many public health advocates have long complained about ads showing happy people whose lives were changed by a drug, and now voices in Congress, the Food and Drug Administration and even the pharmaceutical industry are asking whether things have gone too far.

Medical professors speak out against advertising directly to consumers
BMJ - Jeanne Lenzer
The drug industry's "onslaught of advertising to promote prescription drugs . . . does not promote public health" and "increases costs and unnecessary prescriptions," more than 200 US medical school professors said last week. In the United States the industry spends $4bn (£2.3bn; €3.3bn) a year on direct to consumer advertising.

Armed with New Vaccines, Drug Makers Target Teenagers
The fact is, treatments that are proven safe and effective do not need aggressive marketing--word quickly spreads about their demonstrable efficacy convincing doctors to prescribe such medicines--manufacturers don't invest money to market antibiotics--they are a proven commodity. Drug and vaccine manufacturers invest big bucks mostly (if not entirely) to advertise ineffective (or marginally effective, often unsafe) drugs and vaccines. They advertise most aggressively for the first two years before the lack of efficacy and adverse effects become obvious.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday March 31 2004
updated on Thursday December 2 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Consumer Drug Advertising Challenged - Ads Emphasise Sickness Not Prevention
Are direct-to-consumer adverts for pharmaceutical drugs turning the US into a nation of hypochondriacs? Spyros Andreopoulos, who is director emeritus of the Office of Communication and Public Affairs at Stanford University Medical Center, certainly seems to think so. Interestingly, the United States are, along with New Zealand, unique in the world for allowing such direct advertising and it appears that the U.S., with only 5 % of the world's population,... [read more]
November 29, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

The Medical Mafia rules:
OK to use and promote untested and toxic drugs and medical procedures ....but Not OK for generally safe and efficacious natural foods and/or vitamins! ..."Only 6% of drug advertising material is supported by evidence... ...The article lists several examples of misrepresentation: medical guidelines from scientific societies are misquoted or changed, the side effects of drugs are minimised, groups of patient are wrongly defined, study results are suppressed, treatment effects are... [read more]
March 15, 2004 - Chris Gupta

Canadians Demand Balanced Health Legislation
The Canadian Health Coalition in Ottawa, a group of medical doctors and health workers, has addressed Paul Martin, the Prime Minister, with an urgent plea to not implement proposed legislation that would make pharmaceutical medicines less safe and allow direct public advertising for prescription drugs. It is remarkable, how the Canadian government is proposing a major relaxation of the rules for pharmaceutical products, while clamping down on the natural "competition".... [read more]
January 17, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Risk First, Safety Last!
To really understand what's behind the all the new regulations one must read "Risk First, Safety Last!" summarized in Health law may protect Ottawa post earlier. Please pass the following "SAFETY LAST? National Roundtable Discussion on Health Canada's Proposed Changes" agenda far and wide. Where appropriate, please support by attending. Thanks Chris Gupta SAFETY LAST? A National Roundtable Discussion on Health Canada's Proposed Changes to Canada's Health Protection Legislation Organized... [read more]
January 06, 2004 - Chris Gupta

Hit the drug lords in their pocket book!
The real drug lords are doing their business "officially", with government sanction. They are buttonholing our health officials and legislators to tell them about the wonders of vaccinations, psychoactive drugs for children in schools, poisonous concoctions to "fight cancer" and more. Tim Bolen of Quackpotwatch.Org says there is a chance now for Americans to hit the drug lords where it hurts most - in their pocket book. Of course the... [read more]
August 16, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

Pharma Financing Front Groups: Political Lobby
Drug companies have been known to spend millions of dollars to influence Congress and government, but recently, a new twist has been added to the story. Public Citizen says that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has quietly given $ 41 million to "stealth PACs" in 2002 and failed to mention most of it to the IRS. The pharma-funded groups, which have innocent sounding names, such as 60... [read more]
September 30, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger




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