Parkinson disease ad

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 57, No. 6, July August 2015, Pages 226,228 Letters

I am puzzled by the full-page advertorial that appeared in the May issue of the BCMJ [2015;57:152].

First, what does the neologism “advertorial” mean? An advertisement combined with an editorial? Or approved by the editor? Is it an advertisement dressed in respectable clothes hiding its dubious raiment, such as being sponsored by an organization with commercial motives? I’m sure if it were sponsored and/or paid for by the very respectable Parkinson Society British Columbia (which doesn’t get a mention) that fact would have been made plainly obvious.

Second, what is the goal of this piece? This journal is read almost entirely by physicians. The level of information is for the most part below the common knowledge of most physicians. Other facts such as loss of smell and constipation being early “signs” (that should be “symptoms”) of Parkinson disease are of little practical use to physicians.

Third, regarding advances in treatment: deep brain stimulation is indeed very effective in some patients. Not mentioned is that this is essentially unavailable to large numbers of patients who would benefit due to lack of funding for this very labor-intensive and expensive treatment. Indeed, the wait list just to be evaluated, let alone treated, is years, by which time most patients have deteriorated to the point of being beyond help. What a shameful waste of a few very precious years for the patient. (Remember when this used to be the case for hip replacements, and this became a national scandal?) Also mentioned is the intestinal pump infusion of dopamine. The availability of this, as for deep brain stimulation, is so limited here in BC, as in most places, that it hardly deserves mention. Suggestions for other approaches, as yet unproved, let alone available, are unhelpful—that is with one exception: exercise. This is afforded a single five-word sentence. Meanwhile, the benefit of regular daily exercise has been proven to have very significant benefits for patients, clearly augmenting the effects of medication on their Parkinson-related symptoms. A whole article on this important fact, with guidelines as to the frequency, type, and duration of exercise would have vastly more effect on the help we physicians can give to Parkinson patients than all the other contents of this advertorial.

Fourth, as for the vague statement that “a better understanding and awareness of Parkinson’s disease will ultimately result in more efficient use of the Canadian health care system,” while all of us general neurologists manage the treatment of many Parkinson patients, access for these patients when true super-specialist and team-oriented care is required is extremely limited owing to underfunding in our health care system. Fortunately, other serious neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis fare better.

So, please come clean. Who paid for this? What’s the goal? Was it subjected to any peer review? (Of course not.) Why is the BCMJ demeaning itself in this way?
—John Stewart, MBBS
North Vancouver

Thank you for your letter. The advertisement you are referring to was paid for by AbbVie, a publicly traded company specializing in research-based pharmaceuticals. This information can be found in the Advertiser Index on page 166 (which is also included on the Contents page). However, we agree that readers should not be required to do any detective work to discover who is sponsoring the ad they are looking at, and in future we will ensure that all ads clearly state the name of the advertiser on the ad.

In publication advertising, there are two types of content: advertising and editorial. In this abbreviated lexicon, everything that is not advertising is editorial. The word “advertorial” is meant to convey that although the content looks like editorial, it is in fact an advertisement. We agree that the word is ambiguous, and will no longer use it; if something could be mistaken for editorial content, we will label it “advertisement.”

The BCMJ accepts advertising (totalling about $250 000 per year) in order to lower the cost of the journal to members.—ED.

John Stewart, MBBS,. Parkinson disease ad. BCMJ, Vol. 57, No. 6, July, August, 2015, Page(s) 226,228 - Letters.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.

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