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Magic Bullet Drug Marketing Causing Concern

PHARMAC’S medical director says he has great concerns about the media-driven magic bullet approach to marketing of pharmaceuticals in New Zealand.

Speaking at the release of PHARMAC’s Annual Review, Dr Peter Moodie, says everyone wants a magic bullet and the media is quick to announce so-called break-throughs without checking the veracity.

“With this kind of exposure we can be sure that when a genuine magic bullet is discovered, we will all hear about it. The question is, can we survive the blanks?”

Dr Moodie says the high profile marketing approach raises false expectations, particularly in the most vulnerable members of society.

“Coming to terms with any illness requires recognition of one’s own mortality. The sudden mirage of a lifebelt can be unhelpful – both to the patient and to their relatives. It can increase desperation as much as optimism.”

He says good health cannot be bought.

“If people want long and healthy lives, they have to take responsibility for themselves. It is common sense that exercise, good diet, safe sex are all critical ingredients. It’s more attractive to most of us to pop a pill.”

Dr Moodie says the desire for the instant health fix is underlined by the marketing of drugs such as Xenical for weight loss.

“We are concerned about our growing reliance on a pharmaceutical solution to any and all health issues. We have to get the message out that all drugs have side-effects – some potentially dangerous – and they must be treated with respect.”

Dr Moodie says patients have an absolute right to full information about new treatments, and it is the responsibility of the media and doctors to provide it.

“Both doctors and the media must work together to ensure that “break-through” drugs are critically analysed. The reality is that patients aren’t going to get this from slick advertising which is there to persuade not inform.”

“We cannot afford to ignore what is going on or be slow to take affirmative action. Someone needs to protect the public from false hope and encourage them to question the one-sided view they have from their armchairs,” says Dr Moodie.

[ends]

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