Medicines and the media

Editor, – The Australian Prescriber editorial (Aust Prescr 2000;23:70-1) regarding reporting of medicines in the media is timely. On 13 April 2000, an article in the Adelaide 'Advertiser' included the headline 'Accepted safe levels of cholesterol still too high and pictured a young woman having a cholesterol test. The commentary continued, 'Worldwide evidence proved "normal" cholesterol levels in healthy men and women were too high, an international authority on heart disease said in Adelaide yesterday'. The article went on to talk about '...a new ultra-low dose cholesterol-reducing drug called cerivastatin, ...recently approved for use in Australia...'

Assuming a new study had been released assessing health outcomes associated with cerivastatin, we contacted the reporter. He could not provide any information to support the story, but suggested we contact the Adelaide marketing company publicising the visit of the overseas specialist. The marketing company supplied their media release, but could not provide a reference. They reported the media release was redrafted from one produced by a Sydney company. The Sydney marketing company also could not provide a reference. They said their media release was based on information supplied by Bayer, but they had returned all material to Bayer.

We rang Bayer on five occasions. The product manager was never available to speak to us, nor has he returned our call.

The Adelaide marketing company, however, was more sympathetic. They rang us back to say the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study, a 1995 study involving pravastatin, was the basis for the story. Was the story 'news' or advertising? How can consumers tell the difference?

Libby Roughead and
Andrew Gilbert
School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences
University of South Australia
Adelaide

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