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Why can't pharmaceutical firms convey any other information than promotional stuff?
Leaflet N°6
27 August 2002

Medicines in Europe Forum requires in its proposed amendments, that drug advertising not be confused with the legitimate and rigorous information for patients and health professionals provided by independent sources.


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To answer to health problems or prevent them, everyone needs information about their body, their physiology, the origin of illnesses, medicines etc.

To take care of one's health it is not always best to resort to taking medicine. Prevention, hygiene, surgery, physiotherapy, psychotherapy or other non-drug options are sometimes the best bet. And when taking a medicine is the answer, one must be able to choose the best preparation adapted to the condition, which means the most effective and convenient, the least risky, and the cheapest.

To choose this best option, comparative information is needed, including all the available data, without the information being hidden or distorted. Only an independent source can provide such information. Pharmaceutical companies or health product manufacturers cannot be requested to provide, in the end, anything other than information favourable to their products.

One example, among others:
The majority of diabetics don't need insulin but need first to lose weight and in the event of failure, and only then, oral hypoglycaemic medicines. Among these medicines, only a few have been shown to reduce morbidity and mortality in clinical trials. Only those medicines should be used.
Yet many pharmaceutical companies continue to sell hypoglycaemic drugs that are not as well evaluated as others. The trend for pharmaceutical companies is to try to sell as much of their product as possible and therefore to downplay the limitations of the medicine and to exaggerate qualities.

Not surprisingly the pharmaceutical industry seeks to maximise profits in the shortest time. Promotion of medicines is a key element in the process. But let's not ask them to provide rigorous comparative information: that is not their objective.