The Dangers Of Advertising Drugs On The Internet

October 16, 1998

(Validity of advertising claims for multivitamin preparation Vitacor 20/90 on the internet)

In a paper in this week's BMJ, Dr Uwe Tröger and Professor Frank Meyer from University Hospital in Magdeburg in Germany write that new electronic media such as the internet are used by dubious companies to distribute drugs uncontrollably and that the only effective means of preventing such activities would be with an international initiative.

On investigation, the authors found that some companies misuse the internet for uncontrolled distribution of drugs that have never been tested or have even been evaluated as ineffective, unsafe or dangerous, by national authorities or medical societies. They found that companies deceive patients with their advertising messages and that by using "citations" from serious medical journals they lead people to believe that there is no danger in the use of their "highly effective" drugs. They are also concerned that such administration of drugs may discourage patients from going to their doctor for prescriptions of legitimate medicines.

In their report Tröger and Meyer investigate a drug called Vitacor 20/90 marketed by a company called Health Now in California, claiming this multivitamin product could prevent and even treat cardiovascular diseases. The authors discovered that Health Now's claims were very weak and they conclude that the uncontrolled advertising of drugs and nutritional supplements in electronic media such as the internet is a potential health hazard.

Contact:

Dr Uwe Tröger, Resident in Clinical Pharmacology or Professor Frank Meyer, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Otto-von-Guericke University, University Hospital, Magdeburg, Germany uwe.troeger@medizin.uni-magdeburg.de
-end-


BMJ

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