The slippery slope to New Zealand
European proposals may in effect allow drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. Les Toop and Dee Mangin warn of the situation in their country
- By: Les Toop, Dee Mangin
The European parliament is considering allowing the drug industry to have a much greater role in providing information to patients, with no restriction on the type of media. After direct to consumer advertising was rejected in 2002, industry and the commercial arm of the European Commission submitted a new proposal to allow communication between industry and patients that deliberately leaves out the word advertising and replaces the term independence (freedom from commercial influence) with objective. Information can be entirely objective and yet still mislead through incompleteness or lack of balance and context. Opponents believe that industry will not, and cannot be expected to, provide balanced, comparative, and comprehensive information, and that the proposals amount to advertising by stealth.
In New Zealand and the US, the only two developed countries that allow direct to consumer advertising of prescription medicines, opposition has grown steadily from both the public and doctors. New Zealand's