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Direct-to-consumer advertising: The Campaign To Overturn Europe's Ban

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A proposal by the European Commission to relax a ban on Direct-to-consumer advertising in Europe of prescription drug treaments for AIDS, asthma and diabetes was rejected in 2002 by the European Parliament and the Euopean COuncil in 2003.

Despite the result, the drug industry is hopeful that it will succeed in watering down the European Union ban on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA). Draft proposals from a working group, which includes members of the European Commission and the drug industry, have proposed a public private partnership to provide patient "information" on prescription medicines. [1] It is a prospect that horrifies the medical watchdog group, Health Action International (HAI). In response to the latest EU push, HAI stated that "the pharmaceutical industry is in no position to provide the information people want, need and deserve; information that is unbiased, reliable and comparative." In 2004 a push to weaken the EU's DTCA ban was overwhelmingly rejected. HAI report that one of the European Union members of parliament defended the latest move on the grounds that "70% of the current MEPs were new to their positions." [2] (pdf)

Despite this, Hannah Brown reports that in April 2007 proposals "that would jeopardise the current ban on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs" in the European Union will be unveiled by the European Commission, which drafts legislation for the European Parliament. [3] (Sub req'd)

It is expected that the commission will propose drug companies be allowed to provide 'information' while retaining the ban on product-specific advertising. "There is no discussion of whether industry is going to be an unbiased source about its own or other products or decisions not to treat," said Barbara Mintzes from the University of British Columbia. A coalition of public health groups opposing the anticipated changes argue that "relevant, comparative and appropriate information on health issues cannot be provided by drug companies" because they focus on promoting their product and ignore non-drug treatments. [4] (sub req'd).

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