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The Accuracy of Psychiatric Medication Advertisements in Medical Journals

Spielmans, Glen I. PhD*; Thielges, Shelly A. BA; Dent, Amy L. BA; Greenberg, Roger P. PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: April 2008 - Volume 196 - Issue 4 - p 267-273
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31816a436b
Original Article

Psychiatric medications are frequently advertised in medical journals, yet no study has addressed the veracity of claims made in these advertisements. The present study examined the accuracy of 69 medical journal advertisements for psychiatric medications and the availability of sources cited in these advertisements. Just over half of claims made in advertisements (50.2%) provided no attainable source that could be used to check the veracity of the claim. When sources were attained, they supported the cited claims 65% of the time (95% CI: 61.0–69.1). Claims regarding the efficacy of medications were only supported by obtained cited sources on 53.2% of occasions (95% CI: 46.2–60.2). Attempts to obtain cited data on file from sponsoring drug companies were rarely successful. Given the relatively poor empirical substantiation of claims made in medical journal psychiatric drug advertisements and that most claims provided no attainable sources, increased regulation of such advertising is warranted.

*Department of Psychology, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota; †Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Fredonia, Fredonia, New York; and ‡Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York.

Conflict of Interest: Glen I. Spielmans has minor holdings (less than $10,000) in a mutual fund, Vanguard Health Care, which invests nearly exclusively in pharmaceutical companies.

Send reprint requests to Glen I. Spielmans, PhD, Department of Psychology, Metropolitan State University, 1450 Energy Park Drive, St. Paul, MN 55108. E-mail: glen.spielmans@metrostate.edu.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.