Govt to curb ’wonder drug’ targeting

The Government is to restrict the ability of Britain’s drug companies to run direct mail campaigns targeting individual patients.

The Government is to restrict the ability of Britain’s drug

companies to run direct mail campaigns targeting individual

patients.



Ministers believe the pharmaceutical industry is planning a direct

marketing blitz aimed at persuading patients to ask their doctors for

the latest ’wonder cures’.



A total ban on DM campaigns by drugs companies is thought unlikely

because the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has ordered ministers to avoid

actions which may provoke criticisms of a ’nanny state’. But ministers

want strong restrictions on the industry, either through legislation or

a watertight voluntary code of practice.



Such a code might include compulsory ’disclaimers’ about the power of

new drugs and a warning that patients should be guided by GPs.



A Government source said: ’With advances in medicine, this is going to

be a very real problem. We are worried that vulnerable people will be

targeted and pressured into demanding the latest products. For example,

elderly people could be sent information about Alzheimer’s disease.’



Although ministers say their primary aim is to protect patients, they

are also determined to reduce the escalating NHS drugs budget.



Licences for new products may be restricted to those that prove

cost-effective.



The crackdown is the latest evidence of the Government’s plans to

increase regulations covering direct marketing. Ministers have already

signalled their support for curbs on ’cold-calling’ to private homes and

the sending of unsolicited faxes, as they implement a European Union

directive (Campaign, 15 May).



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