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Developing world needs access to low cost pharmaceutical information from reliable sources

Neil Pakenham-Walsh et al. BMJ. 1999 Nov 6; 319(7219): 1265. PMCID: PMC1117030 Developing world needs access to low cost pharmaceutical information from reliable sources
Abstract / Summary: 
Hafeez and Mirza have assessed how seriously (or not) pharmaceutical companies take their responsibility to provide information on request to prescribers in Pakistan.1 Two of their conclusions are that “providing information on drugs is not a priority for companies in Pakistan” and that “the decision to respond to a request for more information therefore seems to depend on how favourable it might be to the interests of the company.” These conclusions are particularly worrying because the biased information from drug companies is often the only type of information that prescribers have access to. The findings are in one respect an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry's approach in the developing world. But in another respect, the fact that most prescribers in the developing world do not have adequate access to reliable generic information is an indictment of the international health community. We cannot and should not expect the pharmaceutical industry to provide consistently unbiased information. What is needed is universal access to free or low cost information from a reliable source. As a basic source of reliable prescribing information, the British National Formulary is arguably the single most useful formulary for prescribers worldwide and is one of the BMJ Publishing Group's best sellers internationally. We applaud the recent decision to make the eBNF available on line.2 If this facility is free it will be a benefit to some prescribers in developing countries, although the effort required to get information online will always be a barrier, even to those few who do have access. Low cost, printed formularies with a quality and objectivity parallel to those of the British National Formulary should be made affordable to all prescribers. Their value and use should be vigorously promoted, not just by the BMJ Publishing Group but by the international health community at large.
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Neil Pakenham-Walsh et al

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