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Letter to the editor

Editor, – Last year I sent a complaint to the Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) about the promotion of Ponstan (mefenamic acid) by Pfizer in community pharmacies. Pfizer was providing dispenser units with Ponstan packs at the bottom, lip gloss jars at the top, and the claim 'Buy Ponstan and receive a free lip gloss'. I stated in my letter of complaint that 'If ASMI authorises the use of gifts to consumers as promotional techniques, it sets a precedent for other abuses of the system, e.g. giving away a Teddy Bear with every sale of children's paracetamol'. Pfizer responded that 'the complaint is without merit and that the promotion is appropriate'. ASMI dismissed my complaint on the ground that there was no provision in their code of practice to ban this type of promotion. They stated they would consider amending their code in this regard, but their new code released in March 2003 has not been changed.

I was amazed this morning to find in a My Chemist's shop that Pfizer had taken seriously the idea of teddy bears and displayed a full box of colourful Benadryl Teddy Bears with the claim 'Free Benadryl Bear with any Benadryl purchase'. This kind of promotion encourages the public to equate medicines with ordinary articles of commerce. Such promotion is inappropriate for responsible health professionals and encourages unprofessional behaviour by community pharmacists. Pharmacist organisations, pharmacy boards and regulatory authorities should take immediate action to stop this type of promotion as the self-medication industry appears incapable of regulating its members properly.

Agnes Vitry
Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre
University of South Australia, Adelaide
Member of Healthy Skepticism

* In 1995 in Peru Parke-Davis promoted its cough and cold remedy Sinutab with the promise to pharmacists of a complimentary bottle of red wine to celebrate Father's Day if they sold three boxes of Sinutab Maximum Strength or Sinutab Non-Drowsy.1


References

  1. Promoting health in developing countries? Parke Davis offers free wine with Sinutab in Peru. Worst Pills Best Pills News 1995;1(7):3-4.