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Consumer organisations criticise influence of drug companies

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7472.937 (Published 21 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:937
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. London

    The pharmaceutical industry operates in a way that puts profits before public health, members of parliament (MPs) heard last week. And the regulatory authorities, which are meant to ensure the safety of drugs and protect the public, collude with the industry, they were told.

    Testimonies from five doctors and two consumer champions, who were being questioned by the health select committee for its inquiry into the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, built a picture of an industry that creates health anxieties among the public to boost its profits.

    At the same time, withholding unfavourable trial results and controlling what research gets published ensures that doctors get the messages that companies want to promote, the committee heard at the second public sitting of its inquiry.

    Public awareness campaigns are part of a “multipronged marketing approach” that are commonly employed by drug companies to “gain further control over what medicines are being prescribed and to whom,” said Graham Vidler, head of policy at the consumer organisation Which?, formerly known as the Consumers' Association.

    “These can often be for quite trivial conditions, such as toenail infections, and they encourage patients to go and see their general practitioner, often in quite strong terms,” said Mr Vidler. “At the same time the industry will be advertising drugs to …

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