Promotion overdose

How much influence do drug companies have on what your GP prescribes you?
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 

01 .Introduction

In brief

Our investigation into the promotion and marketing of pharmaceuticals highlights how:

  • GPs are bombarded with marketing and promotions from drug companies. This can influence their prescribing habits — and this isn’t in the best interest of consumers.
  • Pharmaceutical promotion isn’t effectively controlled by the industry-administered Code of Conduct. There needs to be more monitoring and enforcement of the Code by a body outside the pharmaceutical industry.
  • GPs receive far more information from drug companies than from independent sources. The government needs to increase funding to ensure GPs have better access to timely, objective information.

You’re sick, so you go to see your GP who prescribes you the best medication for your condition. You take it and you get better. That’s how things should work but what goes on behind the scenes? Can you trust you’re being prescribed medicines based on the best independent information available?

We surveyed 180 practicing GPs about the extent of industry influence in Australia today. Our research shows that drug companies have a major influence on prescribing, and there's strong evidence that pharmaceutical promotion isn't in the best interest of consumers.

Please note: this information was current as of August 2008 but is still a useful guide today.


The business of selling medicines

Pharmaceuticals are big business. Drug companies in Australia had a turnover of $18 billion in 2006-07. Developing new drugs and conducting the various clinical trials required before they can be brought to market is expensive, so there’s clear incentive for drug companies to market their drugs aggressively.

A company holds a patent over a medicine for up to 25 years before generic versions of the same drug can be manufactured by other producers and offered to consumers at a lower price. So it’s in the company’s interest to generate the highest possible return from their product before the patent expires.

Little information is publicly available on the actual amount drug companies spend on marketing drugs, but some estimates suggest it’s more than they spend on research and development.

Pharmaceutical marketing, like all marketing, is used to stimulate demand and increase the bottom line, so if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. Because the information provided isn’t independent it can lead to inappropriate prescribing practices, which expose consumers to unnecessary risk. It can also increase the cost of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which is funded by taxpayers.

Read on to find out how much contact our surveyed GPs had with drug companies and what they think about the information they receive.

 
 

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DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

DrGoogle_App_FristAidBagHealthInsite

healthinsite.gov.au

This Australian government internet gateway allows you to search for information on conditions, diseases, general health (nutrition, fitness) and wellbeing, as well as the latest health news and services. 

It then directs you to one or more of its 80+ partners, all of which meet prescribed criteria for quality, which provides the information. 

Partners include The Black Dog Institute, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Indigenous InfoHealthNet, Vision Australia and the Australian Dental Association.

Better Health Channel

betterhealth.vic.gov.au

The Better Health Channel provides quality-assured, reliable and up-to-date health, medical and healthy lifestyle information, including about complementary and alternative supplements and therapies, from its content partners that's easy to understand. There are no commercial ads or corporate sponsorship, and it's also a HealthInsite partner.

National Prescribing Service

nps.org.au

An Australian government website with everything you need to know about medicines – prescription and over-the-counter.

MedlinePlus

www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/

MedlinePlus is a comprehensive, evidence-based resource for all things medical. Under "Health Topics" it contains information on symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention for more than 900 diseases, illnesses, health conditions and wellness issues, and under Drugs and Supplements there are factsheets on medicines and complementary and alternative medicine supplements. 

It also provides background about the traditional and proposed uses of alternative medicines, warnings and dosage information, as well as reviewing evidence of its efficacy based on clinical research, often with specific references to studies. 

The information and links are regularly reviewed and updated.

ABC Health News

www.abc.net.au/health/healthnews

Keep up to date with the latest health news sourced from ABC TV and radio, presented in a consumer-friendly fashion. You can also subscribe to a free weekly email digest with the week's highlights.

Health on the Net

www.hon.ch

The Health on the Net (HON) foundation is a Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation established in 1995 in an attempt to guide health professionals and consumers world-wide to reliable health information on the net. To meet criteria for HON certification, sites must:
  • Indicate the qualifications of the authors
  • Contain information that supports, not replaces, the doctor-patient relationship
  • Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor
  • Cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages
  • Back up claims relating to benefits and performance using rigorous sources and in a balanced manner
  • Present material clearly and provide accurate email contact addresses for content and the webmaster
  • Identify funding sources
  • Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

DrGoogle_App_HonCodeIf you come across a page with the HONcode logo displayed (pictured left), it indicates the site meets HON criteria for reputable information. You can also search HON for information and it will direct you to websites carrying the logo. 

It's not an iron-clad guarantee of quality, however, and there have been concerns raised about inappropriate content – perhaps placed after the use of the logo was initially awarded. If you see pages with the HONcode logo that you feel don't meet its quality criteria, let them know at honcodecomplaint@healthonnet.org

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