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Open Access Research article

Medicines information provided by pharmaceutical representatives: a comparative study in Australia and Malaysia

Noordin Othman12*, Agnes I Vitry1, Elizabeth E Roughead1, Shaiful B Ismail3 and Khairani Omar4

Author Affiliations

1 Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

2 Kulliyyah of Pharmacy, International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuantan, Pahang, Malaysia

3 Department of Family Medicine, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Kelantan, Malaysia

4 Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:743  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-743

Published: 30 November 2010

Abstract

Background

Pharmaceutical representatives provide medicines information on their promoted products to doctors. However, studies have shown that the quality of this information is often low. No study has assessed the medicines information provided by pharmaceutical representatives to doctors in Malaysia and no recent evidence in Australia is present. We aimed to compare the provision of medicines information by pharmaceutical representatives to doctors in Australia and Malaysia.

Methods

Following a pharmaceutical representative's visit, general practitioners in Australia and Malaysia who had agreed to participate, were asked to fill out a questionnaire on the main product and claims discussed during the encounter. The questionnaire focused on provision of product information including indications, adverse effects, precautions, contraindications and the provision of information on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) listings and restrictions (in Australia only). Descriptive statistics were produced. Chi-square analysis and clustered linear regression were used to assess differences in Australia and Malaysia.

Results

Significantly more approved product information sheets were provided in Malaysia (78%) than in Australia (53%) (P < 0.001). In both countries, general practitioners reported that indications (Australia, 90%, Malaysia, 93%) and dosages (Australia, 76%, Malaysia, 82%) were frequently provided by pharmaceutical representatives. Contraindications, precautions, drug interactions and adverse effects were often omitted in the presentations (range 25% - 41%). General practitioners in Australia and Malaysia indicated that in more than 90% of presentations, pharmaceutical representatives partly or fully answered their questions on contraindications, precautions, drug interactions and adverse effects. More general practitioners in Malaysia (85%) than in Australia (60%) reported that pharmaceutical representatives should have mentioned contraindications, precautions for use, drug interaction or adverse effects spontaneously (P < 0.001). In 48% of the Australian presentations, general practitioners reported the pharmaceutical representatives failed to mention information on PBS listings to general practitioners.

Conclusions

Information on indications and dosages were usually provided by pharmaceutical representatives in Australia and Malaysia. However, risk and harmful effects of medicines were often missing in their presentations. Effective control of medicines information provided by pharmaceutical representatives is needed.