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Should medical journals carry drug advertising? No

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 12 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:75
  1. Gareth Williams, dean
  1. Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Bristol, Bristol BS2 8DZ
  1. Gareth.Williams{at}

    No one can fail to notice the adverts in medical journals but are they really necessary? Richard Smith maintains they are essential to editorial independence, whereas Gareth Williams argues that they undermine a journal's integrity

    There is no escape from them and their quaint little catchphrases: the woman with a toilet for a head (“It's always on my mind”), the blurred bloke on a beach (“A feeling says a thousand words”), the kayak in the waterfall (“The big drop”). Like it or not, drug advertisements have embedded themselves deep in the fabric of medical journals. You can almost understand why: they help drug companies to recoup the huge costs of developing new drugs while providing medical journals with a useful income stream. And why not? Adverts may be an irritating distraction, but surely they are harmless—after all, no doctor could be gullible enough to prescribe a drug because of a picture of a toilet-headed woman and a puerile lavatorial pun.

    I believe, however, that drug advertising is no more acceptable than a drug representative's foot around the doctor's door, and that …

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