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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A cross-sectional evidence-based review of pharmaceutical promotional marketing brochures and their underlying studies: Is what they tell us important and true?

Roberto Cardarelli1*, John C Licciardone2 and Lockwood G Taylor3

Author affiliations

1 Department of Family Medicine/Center for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

2 Osteopathic Research Center, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

3 Department of Family Medicine/Center for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Family Practice 2006, 7:13  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-13

Published: 3 March 2006

Abstract

Background

A major marketing technique used by pharmaceutical companies is direct-to-physician marketing. This form of marketing frequently employs promotional marketing brochures, based on clinical research, which may influence how a physician prescribes medicines. This study's objective was to investigate whether or not the information in promotional brochures presented to physicians by pharmaceutical representatives is accurate, consistent, and valid with respect to the actual studies upon which the promotional brochures are based.

Methods

Physicians in five clinics were asked to consecutively collect pharmaceutical promotional brochures and to send them all to a centralized location. The brochures for any class of medication were collected on a continuous basis until 20 distinct promotional brochures were received by a central location. Once the brochure was received, the corresponding original study was obtained. Two blinded reviewers performed an evidence-based review of the article, comparing data that was printed on the brochure to what was found in the original study.

Results

Among the 20 studies, 75% of the studies were found to be valid, 80% were funded by the pharmaceutical company, 60% of the studies and the corresponding brochures presented patient-oriented outcomes, and 40% were compared to another treatment regimen. Of the 19 brochures that presented the data as graphs, 4 brochures presented a relative risk reduction while only 1 brochure presented an absolute risk reduction. 15% of the promotional marketing brochures presented data that was different from what was in the original published study.

Conclusion

Given the present findings, physicians should be cautious about drawing conclusions regarding a medication based on the marketing brochures provided by pharmaceutical companies.