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Medical News & Perspectives
November 5, 1997


JAMA. 1997;278(17):1390. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550170016006

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A FEW YEARS ago, Andrew Herxheimer, FRCP, of the United Kingdom Cochrane Centre in London, England, became curious about the fine print in the many pharmaceutical advertisements that cite references to unpublished material, labeled "data on file," to support claims made in the ads. He wondered about what kind of data were being referenced to support the ads' claims and how easy it would be for the average reader of the journals carrying the ads to obtain the information.

To investigate, he combed through recent issues of medical journals, mostly 2 publications aimed at general practitioners in the United Kingdom, Hospital Doctor and Prescriber. He found 38 different full-page ads from 28 companies that cited between 1 and 3 references to "data on file" to support claims made in the text of the ad.

"Unpublished material from companies is not readily accessible and hasn't to my knowledge been examined systematically,"

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