Drug companies say no to consumer advertising in UK

LONDON - Two of the world's biggest drug companies have told MPs they do not think that direct-to-consumer advertising is right for the UK market and they do not intend to push for its introduction.

GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca executives were appearing before MPs yesterday at a hearing of the Commons health select committee. They said they did not think it was appropriate for the UK to follow in the footsteps of the US, where pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise prescription medicines directly to the public.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Eddie Gray, UK general manager for GSK, told the committee that the public does not want it.

"People felt direct-to-consumer advertising was good [in the US]. In the UK, the cultural context is not appropriate. The public doesn't want it and we are not pressing for it," he said.

The introduction of DTC drug advertising in the UK may not be welcomed by consumers, but it would be a good source of extra revenue for advertising and media agencies, should the law ever be changed.

It has long been predicted that the UK will follow in the footsteps of the US in allowing ads for drugs on television. However, recent developments in the US may put a dampener on the drug companies' enthusiasm for the move.

In the US, companies including Pfizer and Merck face legal action over claims that ads for certain drugs were misleading.

Merck has already withdrawn the painkiller Vioxx after a study showed a risk of heart trouble after 18 months. And the US regulator has warned Pfizer over its Celebrex and Bextra drugs, saying that consumer advertising made misleading claims about their safety and efficacy.

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