Saturday, March 08, 2008

BMJ Advertising Watch : 08 March 2008 (giving obfuscators a voice)

This is the British Medical Journal Advertising analysis for this week.

The 1.5 pages of advertising material that was not devoted to pharmaceuticals comprised:
  • An advertisement for an information technology company (half a page)
  • A report from the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) listing their token wrist slapping of companies deemed to have breached the ABPI code of practice. The ABPI is of course the lobby group for Pharmaceutical companies in the UK.
These ABPI reports are always puzzling. They seem to choose a few slightly important examples of system malfunction -- while selectively ignoring all serious scientific misconduct or fraud that have led to significant human misery. I might be cynical, but perhaps the intent is to convey an impression that some self-policing is taking place.

This time we are told that ProStrakan promoted a medicine "in a way that was inconsistent with its summary of product characteristics" and UCB Pharma "failed to maintain a high standard". How about dealing with some of the real problems of misrepresented science ABPI, or perhaps that doesn't matter much to your members.

So, ABPI, I suggest that you start with GSK and the problems raised in the report by Harvard Psychiatrist Professor Joseph Glenmullen. Perhaps the ABPI and its members regard the following as good scientific practice:
a) selective publication of positive data,
b) counting of events during the washout phase of clinical trials as if they were events on placebo
c) "recoding" of study events to misrepresent what they are.
Some scientists would regard these actions as serious scientific misconduct, but perhaps the ABPI would not agree. If so, I would be curious to know their reasons.
ABPI, you could even slap a few wrists over the misrepresented data and untruths told to journals and doctors about Procter and Gamble studies in Sheffield. Please do feel free to discuss if you care.

There were a few other depressing features in the BMJ this week. At least the BMJ continue to employ some excellent journalists (Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee) who do tell it as it is. One wonders how long this will continue.

Rules: As usual this is for the UK version of the BMJ. The classified advertisement section is excluded, as are advertisements for the BMA, products of the BMJ/BMA/BNF or the government.

Click here for collated BMJ Advertising analyses.

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