So that’s the ivory tower. What’s happening in the real world?

The No Advertising Please campaign is made up of jobbing doctors whose work is based on seeing patients. Like all doctors, we sometimes read the academic literature, but we also like reading less dry medical magazines and sometimes even general magazines, newspaper and websites. The arguments about what drug reps do, and the pros and cons of drug companies providing education to doctors also get reported here. And, secretly, we know you’re here for the fun, readable articles instead of the peer-reviewed evidence!

They’ll give you pens, but not information

Pharmaceutical reps might be more helpful to doctors if they were able to give us full information. It’s not their fault. The companies they work for keep getting caught hiding crucial information about their drugs.

Here are the two most recent cases we’ve come across: Agomelatine a new type of antidepressant, where the company had only been reporting promising trials.

And quite a few drugs in Canada.

Sadly, this story is not new. GlaxoSmithKline have been fined for similar non-reporting of their very own little polypharmacy.

Here, Ben Goldacre describes the problem in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Having read this, and signed up to No Advertising Please, you probably also want to sign up to Alltrials.Net which is campaigning for the registration of all trials, and the reporting of all results.

You are not alone!

No Advertising Please follows on from similar campaigns from doctors all over the world. You can visit the US, Italy, Germany, and the UK without needing a single pharmaceutical plane trip! Let us know if you organise any exchange trips.

Not every website is about not seeing drug reps, though. There’s Pharmaware which works to ensure health is improved by the pharmaceutical industry. Healthy Skepticism UK (HSUK) campaigns on ensuring medical practice is based on evidence, rather than marketing. There’s a similar organisation based at the Georgetown University Medical Centre called PharmedOut.

In the UK, some doctors have gone a step further and set up a voluntary register of payments from pharmaceutical companies, Who Pays This Doctor?

We can do multimedia, too

You can listen to Geoff Spurling (one of the members of this campaign) speak to Normal Swan on the ABC about the effect of drug reps on our prescribing.

This is a 2014 BBC Panorama documentary which goes undercover to show some of the ways drug companies influence doctors. You wouldn’t want that to happen to you, would you? (If the documentary won’t load, and you find yourself wondering how to get round a geoblock, then you could always visit YouTube.)

You can never really have too much of Ben Goldacre, so his Ted Talk on missing evidence from drug trials is well worth a watch.

This ABC Radio National program looks at the unpublished data on antidepressants, which, showed antidepressants weren’t as effective as we’d previously thought.

Books. Do you remember them?

There are still people out there who like to read things without the risk of batteries running out, or that you can swat flies with without cracking a screen. There are still some good books out there (kids, ask your parents what this means).

Ben Goldacre (that name again) wrote Bad Pharma which details the techniques used by drug companies and the effects of this on health care.

Ray Moynihan and Allan Cassels describe the way drug companies create markets for their products in Selling Sickness.

In Hooked, Howard Brody describes the links between drug companies and medical professionals, and argues that doctors need to “take responsibility for its own integrity.” There’s also an associated blog.

Former NEJM editor Marcia Angell wrote The Truth About the Drug Companies in 2004. To save you buying the whole book, Angell wrote a shorter (but still very substantial) article for the New York Review of Books, in which she attempts to bust a few myths about the connection between a drug price and the innovative research costs.

Odds and sods

Articles of interest from journals, websites, magazines. We’ll leave you to work which are the odds and which are the sods…

Time magazine briefly covers disclosure of payments to doctors

Here, The Global Mail looks at pharma-sponsored medical education. Along the way, you can meet a doctor who’s collected over 800 drug company pens.

But, they must love doctors quite a lot. They keep giving us gifts. Jon Jureidi, in the Medical Observer, argues that gifts do have an influence. You may need to be a doctor to get through the login, sadly.

This French article (fortunately translated just for you) describes 15 years of looking at interactions with drug reps (pdf), and can’t find where they improve health care.

The BBC asks if drug companies should pay doctors in this article from the US.

Across the border in Canada, the Globe and Mail highlights the debate about more openness regarding pharmaceutical company payments to doctors.

Howard Brody wrote a piece for the Annals of Family Medicine arguing that doctors should not see drug reps. Which you can now act on directly from this website!

Dr Andrew Gunn went on ABC Radio to give a little talk about the information he receives in the mail from drug companies.

Peter R Mansfield shows how hard it was for a Medical College to try to organise a conference without drug company sponsorship.

Brett Montgomery argues in a letter to the BMJ that we need better reasons than a poor hospital canteen to ask drug companies to buy us lunch.

What would happen if we used drug company techniques to change the behaviour of our patients? Tim Senior wonders about that too.

This is only a small selection of articles that we know of or have caught our interest. The internet will have many, many more, and you could start making your way through this collection with a quick trip to Google.