Intended for healthcare professionals


Information from drug companies and opinion leaders

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 29 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1156
  1. Alessandro Liberati, associate professor (,
  2. Nicola Magrini, director
  1. University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Via Campi 287, 44100 Modena, Italy
  2. Centre for Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Health Care (CeVEAS), Via Le Huratori, 44100 Modena, Italy

    Double standards in information for medical journals and practitioners should go

    Medicines can offer enormous health benefits if choices for treatment are made appropriately, and availability of valid information is a necessary condition. The asymmetry in the information available to health professionals and consumers is a fundamental barrier to rational and informed choice. Good quality information, however, is a rationed commodity for health professionals also, and the use of different standards in its dissemination represents a major determinant of the failure of the therapeutic chain.1 Healthcare systems make limited investments to provide independent information, and pharmaceutical companies—who fund most clinical research—therefore become major players in the dissemination of information to health professionals and the public. Do pharmaceutical companies and the researchers acting as opinion leaders for them behave fairly and consistently or do they adopt double standards when they write in peer reviewed journals and talk to practitioners? We know that this form of information asymmetry exists.2 Two recent examples—a document from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Companies3 and the debate generated by the ALLHAT study, a landmark trial in the treatment of hypertension—illustrate this danger.48

    The document from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Companies identifies 20 diseases and conditions, such as dementia, asthma, hepatitis C, rheumatoid arthritis, some …

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