Searching For Truth In Medication And Medical Products Promotions

Media literacy - Tools to help you dissect the truth/dissembling in the advertising and promotion of pharmaceuticals and medical products

Ad Watching:

 Consumer reports: AdWatch




Healthy Skepticism

(reviews by

Don’t give him the usual treatment

Nexium (esomeprazole) from AstraZeneca

Talk Watching:

False logic techniques used in promotion in presentations by or discussions with pharmaceutical representatives and medical device salespeople

Guide To Talking With A Drug Rep

What Often Transpires In These Encounters With “Drug Reps”/Lobbyists?

Check off any examples of these type of “persuasive logic” observed -

Ad Homininem

Arguments addressing the person and not the topic, by using either praise or ridicule

“You are such a good doctor that I knew you would want to hear about this mew medication right away.”

Ad Verecundium

Arguments referencing authority, sta tus, degrees, position

“I was just talking to Dr. Big Deal Expert, and he’s uses this with most of his patients with hypertension”


Arguments as a red Herring)

“I haven’t heard about that as a side effect but I do know that there is a lot less weight gain with our drug than with ‘old-stupid other company’s drug.’ ”


Arguments creating a false Dilemma-

“It worth using this because people don’t have the muscle aches that Our Main Competitor’s medication has.”

[Actually, a third drug is the one that is more commonly prescribed for that condition]

Straw Man Argument

Arguments that create a position and then argue against it

“When we first released this medication, many physicians and actually, we were concerned there would be problems with patients developing tolerance for this medication. But they have now done 5 studies [no information on type or quality of these studies] that show that patients do not develop tolerance and this is definitely your best choice.”

[But this was actually never a concern about this drug- it was cost or side effects, or something else.]

Law Of Small Numbers

Arguments that use non-random anecdotes, in direct contrast to the statistically significant law of large numbers,

“I’m sure you hear this too, but I have had two doctors tell me that they got better control of the blood sugars with this than with metformin.

(But, as Nobel laureate George Stigler once remarked, “The plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data.’ ”)


Arguments that appeal to your desire to be part of a group

“I almost didn’t have a chance to get here today- this medication is so popular at the Best-Clinic-in- Town that all the doctors wanted to here more about it.”


Arguments that cite the fact the medication is new as its justification for use

“I know you like to keep up on things and this is the newest treatment for Diabetes. It’s just out and we‘ve seen a lot of success with it.”

Appeal By Manner Or Style –

Representative has good looks, pleasant voice, funny jokes, remembers your name and if you have kids, their names too; even if you have met them so rarely you don’t remember their name.