BRUSSELS - The flip side of pharmaceutical companies' staggering profit figures is that the marketing for their products is incredibly important. Dutch research shows that pharma even spends twice as much money on this than on the development of new drugs. In this study we examine to what extent and in what way health information in the professional media is influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

In her doctorate, Joyce Stroobant (UG) states unequivocally that pharma occupies a central position in the co-production of health news. In some cases, experts on whom journalists often rely have close ties to these companies. For example, some medical journals do not publish pieces that go against the interests of these companies and news items are selected according to potential advertisements. A large-scale study on health news in Flemish dailies and magazines by Rebeca De Dobbelaer (UG) found that 29.3 percent of advertisements and 28.9 percent of public reports are linked to journalistic pieces. Pharmaceutical companies also sometimes succeed in using patient organizations to their advantage.

Luc Vanheerentals

Luc Vanheerentals is a Belgian freelance journalist.