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Certainly, the medical profession should clean up its act, as suggested in the feature on promotion of antidepressants by GSK (1), but so should health authorities. Recent drug disasters, such as the Mediator° (benfluorex) fiasco in France, are testament to the harmful effects of conflicts of interest at the institutional level (2).
Not surprisingly then, as French prescribers have gained greater awareness of drug marketing practices (3-4), they have adopted a critical stance towards pharmaceutical companies’ promotional activities (5); and some 19 000 of them have responded by seeking out, and paying for, their own independent information and continuing education from reliable sources, such as the French journal La Revue Prescrire (6 and Table 1). Prescrire is entirely financed by its subscribers; there are no grants, no advertising, no shareholders and no sponsors.
Why? Because access to independent, reliable data is essential for making informed decisions, with patients, about various treatment options. Critical appraisal of ‘official’ clinical guidelines from an evidence-based perspective is also relevant (7).
While many might still accept the advances of the pharmaceutical industry, one should not underestimate the growing number of healthcare professionals who opt to pay for their own continuing education and who reply “no thanks” to industry’s attempts to win them over (the cost of which ends up being paid for by patients and society at large).
1- Jack A. Mea culpa: are multi-billion dollar fines forcing drug companies to clean up their act? BMJ 2012;345:e4865
2- Prescrire Editorial Staff. “The Mediator° scandal in France: key dates, key issues” Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (121): 280
3- Prescrire Editorial Staff. "The proven, often unconscious, influence of small gifts" Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (122): 303-305.
4- Prescrire Editorial Staff. "Key opinion leaders: used as a marketing tool by drug companies" Prescrire Int 2012; 21 (128): 163-165.
5- Prescrire Editorial Staff.“15 years of monitoring and one simple conclusion: don’t expect sales representatives to help improve healthcare quality” Prescrire International 2006; 15 (84) : 154-159
6- Prescrire Editorial Staff. “The "Non merci..." Charter 2012” http://english.prescrire.org/en/82/173/0/315/About.aspx
7- Prescrire Editorial Staff. Clinical practice guidelines from the French National Authority for Health need improving http://english.prescrire.org/en/81/168/46119/0/NewsDetails.aspx
Competing interests: None declared
Prescrire, 83 bd Voltaire 75558 Paris Cedex 11, France
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