An alliance of Australian doctors is pledging to ban pharmaceutical company representatives from “educational” visits to their practices in a new national campaign.
The “No Advertising Please” (NAP) campaign will be launched at the annual conference of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in Adelaide on 11 October 2014.
As part of the campaign doctors will pledge, for a year, to turn away representatives from drug companies who routinely call on their medical practice. More than 50 doctors from across Australia have already signed the pledge.
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has welcomed the campaign “as an important sign that doctors’ prescribing decisions are based on best independent evidence.
“The NAP campaign brings a new and refreshing level of transparency into medical practice,” the Chief Executive Officer of CHF, Adam Stankevicius said. “It can only boost the level of trust patients place in their doctors to see a NAP poster in their waiting rooms.”
A study in Canada, France and the USA found that patient safety information was often missing from pharmaceutical rep visits - even ‘minimally adequate’ safety information was presented by reps less than 2% of the time.
The NAP group behind the campaign points to research which has found that drug rep visits can be associated with increases in prescriptions of promoted drugs; decreased quality of prescribing; increased costs; and potential ignorance of the risks that some drugs may pose to consumers. The campaigners have highlighted cases such as the BMJ invesitgation into Pradaxa (Dabigatran) which showed that Boehringer Ingelheim, the manufacturers of theanticoagulant stroke drug, withheld important analyses regarding how to use the drug as safely and effectively as possible; and that the company also recently settled litigation in the United States, for US$650 million, relating to allegations the drug caused serious and sometimes fatal bleeding.
This short video* by Professor Paul Glasziou from the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice at Bond University makes the point that the newest medications may not be the best medications.
NAP spokesperson, Brisbane GP Dr Justin Coleman, said the campaign was not seeking to demonise pharmaceutical companies, but aims to discourage the routine acceptance by doctors of the promotion of medicines through drug rep visits.
He asks “why would the pharmaceutical companies spend literally billions of dollars worldwide on these marketing practices if they were not reaping profits from these so-called “educational” sessions?”
When doctors were asked as part of a study how they thought drug reps influenced prescribing behaviour sixty-one per cent thought they had no effect, and only 1% thought they had a big effect. But when they asked the same doctors how much influence they thoughts reps had on other doctors, the results were different: only 16% thought they had no effect, and 51% believed they had a large effect.
“Doctors are all vulnerable to being misled by skilfully-presented information” Dr Coleman said, and noted that there are better, independent sources of information about drugs, such as Australia’s NPS MedicineWise and the Australian Medicines Handbook.
For more information about the NAP campaign visit noadvertisingplease.org. For information about talking to your doctor about your medications and prescriptions on the Working with my Healthcare Team page.
* if you have trouble viewing the video please check it out on YouTube at http://youtu.be/DpTJUId0H_o