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Indian J Pharmacol. 2010 February; 42(1): 59–60.
PMCID: PMC2885648

Authenticity of claims made in drug promotional literature

Sir,

Misleading drug advertising encourages drug consumerism rather than rational use of drugs. To add to the problem, developing countries lack a strong system to keep a check on such activities.[1,2] We have analyzed the authenticity of information provided in the form of promotional literature in India. The study was conducted in Sangli (Maharashtra). Promotional literature for the study was collected from general practitioners and specialists. These were exposed to a primary screening process and only those promoting modern (allopathic) medicine and making at least one therapeutic claim were included in the study. Authenticity of therapeutic claims made in promotional literature was verified by accessing standard literature through internet databases like Medline and Cochrane reviews, standard text books and peer reviewed journals. Subsequently, the claims were classified as-

  1. Authentic - When they were in concordance with the known benefit of drug administration.
  2. Exaggerated - When a claim extended beyond the actual benefit obtained by the patient following drug administration.
  3. Controversial - When only a few clinical studies in standard literature supported claims made on promotional literature while others disposed them.
  4. Misrepresentation of data from published authentic literature to suit the claims made by the company in promotional literature.
  5. False - When there were no studies to support the use of the drug for a particular claim made in promotional literature.

A total of 134 promotional leaflets given to medical practitioners were collected. Out of these, 102 satisfied the inclusion criteria and were subjected to analysis. The analysis showed that as many as 20% of the claims were exaggerated, 32% were inconclusive, 17% were false and only 21% were authentic. In 10% of the leaflets, original data from literature was misrepresented to suit the therapeutic claims made. Since a complete report of all these claims is beyond the scope of this article, a few examples are shown in Table 1. The results of other studies conducted worldwide, especially in the developing countries are in concordance with the present study.[2,3] To conclude, there is still an unmet need for dispersal of unbiased information to the prescribers. We also conclude that the promotional literature continues to be far from educational. We emphasize the need to inculcate the art of critical appraisal amongst medical practitioners, so that they may derive the best from the information made available to them in the form of promotional literature.

Table 1
Analysis of therapeutic claims made in promotional literature

References

1. Shetty VV, Karve AV. Promotional literature: How do we critically appraise? J Postgrad Med. 2008;54:217–21. [PubMed]
2. Rohra DK, Gilani AH, Memon IK, Perven G, Khan MT, Zafar H, et al. Critical evaluation of the claims made by pharmaceutical companies in drug promotional material in Pakistan. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2006;9:50–9. [PubMed]
3. Islam MS, Farah SS. Sources of information in drug advertisements: Evidence from the drug indexing journal of Bangladesh. Indian J Med Ethics. 2008;5:136–7. [PubMed]

Articles from Indian Journal of Pharmacology are provided here courtesy of Medknow Publications