Aggressive promotion of pharmaceutical products
Marketing of non-essential drugs
Advertising proprietary drugs of dubious therapeutic qualities
In their campaigns to promote their products, pharmaceutical companies may make inflated promises, offer "rewards" to purchasers or promoters (such as "educational seminars" or even cash bonuses), and provide incomplete and thus misleading information or instructions. Advertising aimed directly at the physician often lacks information on the contra-indications to, and toxicity and hazards of, the preparations concerned. Non-technical advertising aimed at the public tends to take advantage of the gullibility of many people (for example, in the case of advertising of medicines for slimming, for constipation, for sexual impotence or for loss of hair).
The problem occurs everywhere, but is particularly severe in the developing world. A well-known example is the decline in breast-feeding due to the promotion of powdered infant formulae which has increased the incidence of malnutrition and disease. In Pakistan, there are around 14,000 individual proprietary drugs available compared with the 360 essential drugs recommended by the WHO. An example in developed countries is the misleading claim for vitamin supplements on the basis of general or widespread deficiency of vitamins in people eating in normal, balanced diets.