PAGB ready to ease its restrictions over ads for medicines

Agencies are set to be given greater creative freedom in the advertising of medicines to reflect changing public attitudes to taste and decency.

Agencies are set to be given greater creative freedom in the

advertising of medicines to reflect changing public attitudes to taste

and decency.



The Proprietary Association of Great Britain is considering a relaxation

of its rules to allow pharmaceutical advertising to match that of other

consumer products more closely.



A PAGB working party is discussing a possible change as part of a

revised advertising code due to be published early next year.



But Sheila Kelly, the director-general of the PAGB, said: ’My attitude

is that if it’s acceptable for mainstream advertising it should be fine

for medical work too.’



The move has been prompted partly by the growing number of medicines

being switched from presciptions to over-the-counter sales.



At the same time, many newly launched over-the-counter products cannot

be promoted with doctors’ endorsements and have to rely instead on

memorable advertising to make their mark with consumers.



The issue has also been highlighted by two controversial medical ads

that provoked complaints to advertising watchdogs.



One was for Pro-Plus, a pick-me-up product produced by Roche Consumer

Health, that appeared in the magazine, Loaded. Complaints that the ad

exceeded the bounds of good taste were upheld by the Advertising

Standards Authority.



The other was a TV ad for Hedex, a SmithKline Beecham headache remedy,

that featured a couple in bed and led to complaints to the Independent

Television Commission because it included bullfighting scenes.



Now the PAGB, which pre-vets all pharmaceutical advertising, wants to

bring its code more closely into line with that of the ASA, which takes

account of where contentious ads are appearing and who will see

them.



Kelly said: ’We have to take changing circumstances into account and the

aim of the review is to be less restrictive. But it does mean that we’ll

have to be prepared to tolerate a level of complaints.’



The working group, consisting of industry, agency and PR

representatives, will present its recommendations in the autumn.