Naked Medicine

Let's Face It: Medicine is Business

Category: Health Advertising

Alli is Really Over The Counter Xenical

I was wondering about the rash of recent television ads for a product called “Alli”. It was obviously a diet product, but I wasn’t sure if it was an herbal supplement or prescription drug. The tone of the ad sounded more like an herbal supplement, and the multi-colored lettering on the bottle looked gimmicky.

Turns out that Alli is the over the counter (OTC) version of an old drug called Xenical.

Some side effects associated with Xenical: Oily Spotting, Flatus with Discharge, Fecal Urgency, Fatty/Oily Stool, Oily Evacuation, Increased Defecation, Fecal Incontinence. In layman’s terms: your butt “leaks” oil, you may expect to have sh*tty farts, you may expect to have the sh*ts (and when you do you’d better pray you’re near a bathroom because you may not have much time or control), you may expect to have oily sh*t, and you may expect to have trouble sh*tting all other times.

The ads could have just said that and saved us a lot of trouble figuring out what this product really is. But that would be too obvious, and the marketers are counting on consumers not knowing any better to buy into the hype so the drug company (GlaxoSmithKline) can make some money before people figure it out for themselves.

Google Healthcare Ads and False Claims

Jeanne Sather has written a longer response to my post on Google Coop for Health. Instead of leaving it as a “comment” I’ve decided to post it here as an article, because she has raised an important issue about Google Ads, which this site uses. By the way I’d love to use blogads, if I can get an invite from someone, because I’ve written them several times and haven’t heard a peep from the admins.

Google has a lot to answer for in the ads that it runs on the Web. The company has been very irresponsible in carrying ads for products that are nothing more than snake oil. (more…)

Misleading Healthcare Ads and False Claims

Google has made astronomical profit from its advertisement programs, at least $900 million. Certainly, Google’s Adsense/Adwords services has benefitted both website publishers and businesses alike. takes advantage of Google’s Adsense service to display contextual (relevant) ads that Google serves up from advertisers, and when visitors click through to products and services that they are interested in, this website benefits by gaining a few cents in the “Website Operations and Maintenance” kitty. Google also serves up text-based, contextual ads next to key word search results.

When you mix free speech, lax advertising content policy enforcement, and opportunistic merchants, you come face to face with asking where the buck stops when consumers are barraged with misleading healthcare ads and false claims for miracle cures. (more…)

Truth in Medical Marketing and CMEs

Recently newsgroup user jkellymdmph asked a question that I had brought up when Google Co-op Health first launched:

How can this group health effort can resist infiltration by aggressive marketing?

jkellymdmph goes on to describe a continuing medical education (CME) event he attended that was supported with an unrestricted grant from a pharmaceutical company. There are two important notes in this story:

1) He thought the CME was very good, and “didn’t notice” that the supporter was a pharma company

2) … until the speaker began to tout the company’s drugs as “the best” (more…)

What Open Medicine Is and Is Not

A benefit – and side effect – of Internet culture is an embrace toward access and openness. I can access an abundance of free information on the web. I’ve always embraced open source applications, like the one used to create this website, and will continue to do so as long as it’s available.

However, a potential misconception called “Open Medicine” is a side effect of the Internet culture. I do not believe most people who advocate for “Open Medicine” on the web actually understand what “Open Medicine” really means, and all the ramifications and responsibilities that come with the term. When most speak of “Open Medicine” they refer to the idea that medical information should be freely available, transparent, and credible.

I don’t argue with the concept of making healthcare information available, transparent, and credible. After all, I created to provide Accessibility, Honesty, and Integrity in healthcare information.

What I oppose is the misconception built around Open Medicine. In my opinion, here is what Open Medicine is NOT:

Open Medicine is not a blogging network, even if the blogging network is composed of a team of doctors, nurses, scientists, other healthcare “experts”, or anyone who has a burning desire to voice an opinion about a particular healthcare trend or drug.

In considering what Open Medicine really is, we only need to look at the basic definition of “Open” as it relates to this Internet phenomenon:

The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing. Source: Open Source Initiative.

In other words, Open Medicine can work only when we are allowing access to what is considered proprietary information or intellectual property, for the expressed purpose to enable collaboration to improve and innovate upon this “open” information. (more…)

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