Internet could beat ban on advertising prescription drugs

The Advertising Association is to consult its members over whether ads for prescription-only drugs should be allowed on the internet.

The Advertising Association is to consult its members over whether

ads for prescription-only drugs should be allowed on the internet.



The move follows a controversial decision by the Medicines Control

Agency to allow the British Medical Journal to include drug ads on its

website, despite the ban on ads for prescription-only medicines.



Although primarily aimed at doctors, the ads will allow the public

access to information about new drugs. Ad industry leaders believe the

landmark ruling will be followed by other difficult dilemmas over the

regulation of ads on the internet.



The Consumers Association has protested strongly about the move, saying

that it could be ’the thin end of the wedge’ which leads to a

free-for-all in drugs advertising. It says this could jeopardise the

traditional relationship between doctors and patients.



The consumers’ group has held talks with the AA on the issue in an

attempt to find a common position, but the two sides differed markedly.

AA leaders argued that the public should be allowed as much information

as possible and rejected what one industry source called the ’knee-jerk

opposition’ by the Consumers Association. ’It seems to think anything

that the industry does is bound to be intrinsically bad for the

consumer,’ he said.



The AA pointed out that consumers’ groups in the US and rest of Europe

had backed calls for a more liberal regime for drugs advertising so as

to better inform patients.



Some GPs may express concern about the move, fearing they will be

inundated with requests by patients seeking new ’wonder cures’. But the

AA, which will issue a policy statement after consulting its members,

pointed out that patients could already read the journal in public

libraries.



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