Rules governing the advertising of medical products in Britain are
being updated to take account of more knowledgeable consumers.
The new regulations will allow drugs companies to make greater use of
medical terminology in ads, relaxing previous restrictions dating back
more than 70 years.
But companies are being ordered to step up efforts to ensure advertising
is not targeted at children, while curbs on the endorsement of medicines
by health professionals are being extended.
The amendments are the first for 13 years in the code drawn up by the
Proprietory Association of Great Britain, which represents almost all
the UK’s pharmaceutical advertisers and is responsible for implementing
their self-regulatory system.
The changes have been precipitated by an acceleration in the number of
drugs that have switched from being available on prescription only to
being sold over the counter.
More than 60 products have been granted over-the-counter licences in the
past five years and the number of switch applications being made to the
Medicines Control Agency is running at about 35 a year.
At the same time, the growth of new media such as the Internet - raising
the possibility of prescription medicines being advertised directly to
consumers - has increased the need for a sharpening of the code.
Drugs manufacturers have been pressing for an amended and simplified
code, fearing that they are being denied the chance to run creative and
effective work which can compete for attention in a crowded advertising
Sheila Kelly, the PAGB’s executive director, said medical terminology
should be allowed in advertising - provided it did not encourage
excessive use of medicines - because consumers now have a greater
understanding of it.