Accuracy of pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals

An article by Pilar Villanueva and colleagues in The Lancet reviews the accuracy of claims made in advertisements for antihypertensive and lipid-lowering drugs in Spanish medical journals.

Advertisements were largely in prestigious journals and were referenced by strong studies, but nearly half of the promotional statements were not supported by the associated reference.

The authors concluded that ‘doctors should be cautious in assessment of advertisements that claim a drug has greater efficacy, safety, or convenience, even though these claims are accompanied by bibliographical references to randomised clinical trials published in reputable medical journals and seem to be evidence-based.’


Pilar Villanueva, Salvador Peiró, Julián Librero et al. Accuracy of pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals. Lancet 2003; 361: 27-32

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Lancet comment:


Recent proposals to broaden pharmaceutical advertising in Europe to patients were the focus of much debate, and were eventually not accepted. If, as results from this study suggest, regulation of claims for advertising is not even currently effective for medical professionals, this is one example that must cast doubt on industry claims to self-regulate future advertising to patients.

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