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Soft Targets: Nurses and the Pharmaceutical Industry

  • Annemarie Jutel mail,

    To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:

  • David B Menkes
  • Published: February 05, 2008
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050005

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Health Professionals need new skills to critically appraise marketing programmes

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:20 GMT

Author: Peter Aitken
Position: Director of Research & Development, Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist
Institution: Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Exeter, EX2 5AF
Submitted Date: February 15, 2008
Published Date: February 18, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

We, a group of senior consultants and academics from across medical disciplines, convened a one day conference at BMA House in 2005 (1) to examine our relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. (2) What emerged was a consensus that whilst we had skills in critically appraising the scientific literature we had a poor knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry mission, in particular marketing programmes and lacked skills in critically appraising marketing materials.(3) From the conference a number of us established as an educational organisation aimed at bridging the knowledge and skills gaps for post graduate doctors. We have run a series of courses and engaged over 400 UK doctors and pharmacists in the programme. In October 2007 we revised the website to include a members area for registered health professionals where peer blog discussion tackles ethical issues and dilemmas in practice. (4) Most recently we have found a number of nurses registering with the site and it may be that the site and the programme could be helpful to nurses. Registration and use of the site is free. Our aim is to create on line peer groups in discussion from which best practice can be determined. My interest is the educational research opportunity this affords. We would welcome nurses registering and offering feedback on the information & training materials available.

1 Arbor Vitae Education, BMA House, June 2005. (accessed 06 Nov 2006).

2. Aitken P, Katona C. Working with the drug industry – is your reputation at risk? BMJ Career Focus 2005;330:73–5

3. Aitken P, Perahia D, Wright P. Psychiatrists entering the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. Psychiatry Bull 2003;27:248–50.

4.Hewitt P. Trust, assurance and safety – the regulation of health professionals in the 21st century. London: Stationery Office, 2007.

Competing interests declared: I am Medical Director of, a training organisation which stands to gain if more health professionals train in their working relationship with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.