Government ad body warned it is on slippery ground

- A government body which has threatened drugs companies with criminal charges if their ads break official rules has been warned that it could face legal challenges for acting beyond its powers.

- A government body which has threatened drugs companies with criminal charges if their ads break official rules has been warned that it could face legal challenges for acting beyond its powers.

Lawyers advising the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents almost all Britain's pharmaceutical manufacturers, say the Medicines Control Agency is fighting on questionable ground.

Now the Advertising Association has written to the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, to put pressure on the MCA to back down.

Industry bodies have been battling the MCA since August last year when it said that any companies caught flouting regulations could face fines of up to £5,000 and their directors up to five years in jail.

But the PAGB's lawyers claim the additional powers the MCA is taking would leave it vulnerable to attack under the European Convention of Human Rights "and that such an attack would be likely to succeed."

The new rules would allow the MCA to examine any pharmaceutical advertising and order it to be pulled. There is no right of appeal against its decisions. Advertising lobbyists claim the MCA's action could result in companies being punished even though their ads conform to self-regulatory codes.

Sara Price, the AA's head of public affairs, said: "We've no guarantee the MCA will address industry concerns. We have to keep up the pressure."

















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