The recent study was conducted to assess the strength and efficacy of Sweden's regulation of drug promotion found that at least 34% of all advertisements on antidepressants in The Swedish Medical Journal were judged to be misleading by the industry's self-regulation system. The authors suggest that only one third of advertisements found to be misleading indicates either that the industry's self-regulation mechanism functions well, or the regulation mechanism is "toothless," as misleading drug advertisements are usually met with a fine, calculated to be only 0.009% of sales revenue.
Although the fine has recently been raised, fines for unethical marketing seem to be just a slap on the hand, as it takes an average of 15 weeks from publication of the misleading pharmaceutical advertisements to the announcement of a decision by the industry's self-regulation system. It is estimated that in 15 weeks, those advertisements could have been published in a single journal at least 15 times, reaching large populations of physicians in that time and potentially altering physicians' prescribing habits for a particular drug. Only 12% of unethical pharmaceutical advertisements were reported by physicians, while only 8% were reported by the Medical Products agency.
Of course, there are many drug advertisements published in each issue of a medical journal and, so, the issue of unethical marketing is magnified when one considers the number of advertisements printed in a journal issue and, then, the time that it takes for the industry's self-regulating mechanism to not only identify it, but also review it and potentially retract it. Furthermore, making physicians aware of these misleading advertisements that may have influenced their prescribing habits, continues to be a challenge.
Misleading Advertising for Antidepressants in Sweden: A Failure of Pharmaceutical Industry Self-Regulation
Unethical Advertising at Launch of New Antidepressants in Sweden