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Public Information as a Marketing Tool, Promotion of Diseases and Medicines.

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Abstract

This report describes ways in which pharmaceutical companies provide the public with information about diseases and conditions. It provides an overview of the various methods used, and the impact that public information campaigns can have. The aim of this report is to demonstrate how companies use public information campaigns about diseases and conditions as tools to market their medicines. In the research, we have carried out three case studies to demonstrate how various methods are applied and the parties are involved.
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... Advocates consider disease awareness campaigns to be particularly important for underdiagnosed diseases [12]. However, concerns have been raised about the quality and nature of the information being provided to the public in disease awareness campaigns [13]. Proponents of direct to consumer advertising claim that it empowers consumers by stimulating discussions with physicians, enabling patients to obtain needed treatment at an earlier stage and improving adherence. ...
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Background: The European legislation prohibits prescription-only medicines' advertising but allows pharmaceutical companies to provide information to the public on health and diseases, provided there is no direct or indirect reference to a pharmaceutical product. Various forms of promotion have become increasingly common in Europe including "disease-oriented" campaigns. Objectives: To explore examples of disease awareness campaigns by pharmaceutical companies in the Netherlands, by assessing their compliance with the World Health Organization (WHO) Ethical Criteria for medicinal drug promotion and the Dutch guidelines for provision of information by pharmaceutical companies. Methods: Materials referring to health/disease and treatments published in the most widely circulated newspapers and magazines were collected from March to May 2012. An evaluation tool was developed based on relevant underlying principles from the WHO ethical criteria and Dutch self-regulation guidelines. Collected disease awareness advertisements were used to pilot the evaluation tool and to explore the consistency of information provided with the WHO and Dutch criteria. Findings: Eighty materials met our inclusion criteria; 71 were published in newspapers and 9 in magazines. The large majority were news items but 21 were disease awareness advertisements, of which 5 were duplicates. Fifteen out of the 16 disease awareness campaigns were non-compliant with current guidelines mainly due to lack of balance (n = 12), absence of listed author and/or sponsor (n = 8), use of misleading or incomplete information (n = 5) and use of promotional information (n = 5). None mentioned a pharmaceutical product directly. Conclusion: Disease Awareness Campaigns are present in Dutch printed media. Although no brand names were mentioned, the lack of compliance of disease awareness campaigns with the current regulations is alarming. There were information deficiencies and evidence of information bias. A key concern is that the context in which the information is provided, mostly through indirect referral, is likely to support treatment with the sponsor's product.
Chapter
This is a protocol for a Cochrane Review (Intervention). The objectives are as follows: To assess the effects of unbranded advertising of prescription medicines, conducted by or on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, on consumers’ attitudes, knowledge, behaviour, health services use, health outcomes and costs.
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