In October 2002 the drug promotion web site was freely accessible online at http://www.drugpromo.info. The main feature, the database of drug promotion material, currently contains approximately 2700 entries.
For this project, promotion was broadly defined using the WHO definition: “all informational and persuasive activities by manufacturers, the effect of which is to induce the prescription, supply, purchase and/or use of medicinal drugs.” Material on promotion was sought from books, journal articles, magazine and newspaper stories, articles from drug bulletins/newsletters, videos, radio and television transcripts, and guidelines from organizations and professional bodies.
Material for inclusion in the database was identified primarily from a MEDLINE search going back to 1 January 1970. Dr Joel Lexchin, a drug promotion expert from Toronto, was the principal investigator and compiled the entries. Melissa Raven, a public health specialist from Flinders University, South Australia, has been updating the database since mid-2002.
Additional material was found by scanning the list of references in the items found through the MEDLINE search, through contacts in the E-Drug discussion group and from other experts in drug promotion. Material was only included if it was currently possible to obtain the item and was excluded if it came from sources such as unpublished articles where there was no contact address available, or articles from magazines that had gone out of production, etc. All material that fitted these criteria was included regardless of who produced it, i.e., government, industry, NGOs, etc. Note - advertisements for drugs were not included unless there was a commentary on the advertisement, either positive or negative. Only material in English has been included but there are plans to expand the database to cover material in French and German.
While WHO and HAI believe the present database is a valuable resource on what is known about drug promotion, it needs to evolve with use and experience. We welcome comments by users. We also need to broaden involvement, for example, through pharmaceutical companies providing their research on the influence of drug promotion (currently not usually accessible outside of the company). That way, the database would give a more complete picture of what is known and not known about drug promotion.