Industry welcomes review of proposals on drugs ads rules

The threat of a Government clampdown on advertising by drugs companies has eased after an official promise to re-examine the proposals.

The threat of a Government clampdown on advertising by drugs

companies has eased after an official promise to re-examine the

proposals.



In a move which set alarm bells ringing across the ad industry last

year, the Medicines Control Agency warned pharmaceutical manufacturers

that it planned to seek the power to pre-vet all medical advertising, a

job currently carried out by the Proprietary Association of Great

Britain.



Now the MCA, which sets the rules for drugs advertising, has agreed to

look again at plans to extend its powers ’in the light of industry

concerns’.



The MCA’s rethink comes as the Government contemplates either

legislation or a watertight code of practice to control direct marketing

by drugs companies (Campaign, last week).



Industry bodies reacted with dismay to last summer’s warning by the MCA,

which raised fears of a ’domino effect’ in which alcohol ads and those

targeted at children might also face statutory controls. The MCA claimed

an extension of its powers was needed because drugs companies were

consistently misinterpreting advertising rules.



If a statutory MCA code were imposed, companies could face fines of up

to pounds 5,000 and their directors up to five years in jail, even if

their ads conform to industry codes. There is no right of appeal against

MCA decisions and it doesn’t have to explain itself.



But although the MCA says it will reconsider the proposals, officials

have refused to consult again with interested parties, fuelling fears

that they will come up with an unworkable plan.



Sara Price, the Advertising Association’s head of public affairs, said:

’The MCA says it would only use its new powers in extreme

circumstances.



But we don’t believe it needs those powers in the first place. It has

never been forced to use the already considerable authority it already

has.’



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