AA calls for deregulationof medicinesto allow ads

The Advertising Association is calling for the deregulation of the pharmaceutical industry, in an attempt to ease the ban on advertising prescription drugs.

The AA, led by chief executive Peta Buscombe, is in talks with Ofcom about a possible “rethink”, to allow pharmaceutical companies to talk about its products.

In the UK, only over-the-counter advertising is allowed and a combination of national and European legislation prohibits the advertising of prescription-only drugs direct to consumers.

The control over such advertising in the UK is based on the long-established system of self-regulation policed by the statutory authority set up by the Department of Health, called the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA acts on behalf of the Health Ministers to protect public health by promoting the “safe use” of pharmaceutical products.

The call to allow pharmaceutical companies to inform consumers through “some kind of advertising” follows similar calls made earlier this year by the EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, Gunter Verheugen.

The Commissioner proposed that prescription drugs be allowed to advertise its ingredients, applications and side effects on the internet or in press ads. His calls for a “reform” of the industry angered consumer and health professionals, who at the time said that it would be impossible to draw a line between promotional and non-promotional information.

Buscombe points out how the AA helped remove the ad ban on opticians in 1984, and how the “biggest winner of that deregulation had been the consumer”. It led to opticians stocking a much wider choice of spectacles.

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