Consumer group catches media with fart joke

1st September 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch consumer programme used a study on Dutch citizens with 'gas problems' in order to illustrate how pharmaceutical companies manipulate the media.

Amtserdam -- A Dutch consumer advocacy programme has launched a campaign against 'symptom-disease' advertising, a tactic used by pharmaceutical companies to reach consumers despite a ban on direct advertising.

"Pharmacists may not advertise prescription-only drugs," Radar, a TROS-consumer programme, reported Monday. "They therefore frequently launch campaigns aimed at the medical condition itself, such as erectile problems, nail fungus and heartburn."

The campaign kicked into high gear following a survey released by Dutch research company TNS-nipo found that 75 percent of Dutch people experienced flatulence.

Although the survey was legitimate, Radar monitored the Dutch media's reaction to the survey, and created a fake website for those suffering from gas problems. The website included a self-test with questions like "I suffer from gas daily" that suggested those with complaints should talk to their doctors.

About 4,000 people had visited the website as of Monday, and half had taken the test, reports Explore Magazine.
"Drug Manufacturers will use the media to sell as many pill as possible," said a story published Monday on Radar's website.

Radar claims journalists unwittingly help 'symptom-diseases' advertising by taking the conclusions of such surveys for granted.

"One in four Dutch people are gassier than the average," began a recent ANP story published on last week. "Changing your may help, but there are also drugs [that prevent gassiness]," the story continued.

The campaign follows a report by the healthcare inspectorate that Dutch online medical websites violate the ban on prescription drug advertising. Out of 41 websites checked, 27 promoted specific medicines, according to the Dutch news agency NOS.

Jennifer Evans / Expatica

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