Assessment of a Pharmaceutical Advertisement Analysis Module in a Drug Literature Evaluation Course

By Amin, Mohamed Ezzat Khamis; Fattouh, Youssef | American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, August 2017 | Go to article overview

Assessment of a Pharmaceutical Advertisement Analysis Module in a Drug Literature Evaluation Course


Amin, Mohamed Ezzat Khamis, Fattouh, Youssef, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education


INTRODUCTION

The implications of pharmaceutical promotional tools on the behavior of health professionals have been growing in recent years. Pharmaceutical advertisements have been criticized for manipulating or biasing the message resulting to inappropriate therapeutic choices, damaging public health, and escalating health care costs. (1-2) While improved regulation and redesigned incentive systems are important strategies in tackling this issue, educational training for medical and pharmacy students is crucial to prepare future practitioners to respond appropriately to drug promotion. (3-5) Pharmacy students need this kind of training. Pharmacists are often members of committees that decide on a formulary or protocol and may be subjected to promotional pressures by representatives. (6) At times, pharmacists need to appraise promotional materials to be able to deal with prescribers who may have been influenced by these materials. Pharmacists who are educated on different aspects of pharmaceutical promotion are in a better position to put forward a rational argument for the appropriate use of medicines. (7)

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a set of international standards comprising ethical criteria for the promotion of medicinal drugs. Endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 1988, the criteria aimed to give stakeholders a useful framework for developing measures to ensure that promotional practices involving drugs follow acceptable ethical standards. The criteria provided a frame of reference forjudging proper behavior in drug promotion, including an evaluation of the content of advertisements and package inserts. However, the criteria did not include measures for a more detailed analysis of texts, references, graphs, photographs, and other images in print pharmaceutical advertisements. More recently, Health Action International (HAI) and WHO published an educational manual that medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and other health discipline instructors can use to train students on how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion before they start prescribing and dispensing medicines. (2) The manual, Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide, covers a number of topics, including common marketing techniques used by the pharmaceutical industry. Particularly relevant to this paper is a specific chapter in this manual that provides guidance for a detailed analysis of texts, references, graphs, photographs, and other images in print pharmaceutical advertisements.

An international survey of educational initiatives on pharmaceutical promotion found that while many medical and pharmacy educators recognize the need for education about drug promotion, the incorporation of this topic in educational curricula is still limited. (9) Many respondents cited inadequate time allocation as a barrier to successful inclusion of an educational program on drug promotion that meets educators' goals. An interesting finding was that the topic was often integrated into therapeutics, pharmacology, or professional ethics classes. The survey indicated that many educators aimed to include critical appraisal of drug promotion in future educational activities.

Biostatistics and drug literature evaluation courses are typically designed to provide a foundation of evidence-based medicine skills for pharmacy students. These courses teach students how to critically evaluate the medical literature and identify findings that have implications for pharmacy practice. Key objectives for these courses are to enable the students to demonstrate a fundamental knowledge of common statistical principles and tests useful in analyzing scientific data; identify appropriate statistical tests for different types of research data and study designs; critically evaluate professional, lay, and scientific literature in a logical, systematic fashion, and apply principles of evidence-based medicine to make informed health care decisions and recommendations. …

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