Government set to allow more drugs to be advertised in UK

The Government is set to allow Britain’s pharmaceutical companies to advertise more of their products in a move that could herald an American-style explosion of drugs advertising.

The Government is set to allow Britain’s pharmaceutical companies

to advertise more of their products in a move that could herald an

American-style explosion of drugs advertising.



Although ministers are expected to retain the ban on advertising

prescription-only drugs, they intend to remove many products from the

list, enabling them to be advertised and sold ’over the counter’ at

chemists.



The move is seen in Whitehall as a compromise between the Advertising

Association, which wants the existing curbs to be relaxed, and the

Consumers’ Association, which opposes a free-for-all in drugs

advertising.



Alan Milburn, the health secretary, is considering the ban as part of a

wider review of drugs policy. Aides say he is keen to see a ’radical

reappraisal’ under which more products are sold directly to consumers in

order to cut the National Health Service’s drugs bill.



The Downing Street Policy Unit is backing the plan to slim down

significantly the list of prescription-only medicines, which it also

sees as part of the Government’s efforts to cut unnecessary red

tape.



But the move would be controversial and the AA and the Consumers’

Association have already clashed over whether prescription-only products

should be advertised on the British Medical Journal’s website.



In the US, there was a huge rise in ’direct to consumer’ advertising of

drugs after the promotion of branded products was given the go-ahead in

1997.



America’s top ten drugs companies now spend more than dollars 200

million on such campaigns each quarter.