The Government is to restrict the ability of Britain’s drug
companies to run direct mail campaigns targeting individual
Ministers believe the pharmaceutical industry is planning a direct
marketing blitz aimed at persuading patients to ask their doctors for
the latest ’wonder cures’.
A total ban on DM campaigns by drugs companies is thought unlikely
because the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has ordered ministers to avoid
actions which may provoke criticisms of a ’nanny state’. But ministers
want strong restrictions on the industry, either through legislation or
a watertight voluntary code of practice.
Such a code might include compulsory ’disclaimers’ about the power of
new drugs and a warning that patients should be guided by GPs.
A Government source said: ’With advances in medicine, this is going to
be a very real problem. We are worried that vulnerable people will be
targeted and pressured into demanding the latest products. For example,
elderly people could be sent information about Alzheimer’s disease.’
Although ministers say their primary aim is to protect patients, they
are also determined to reduce the escalating NHS drugs budget.
Licences for new products may be restricted to those that prove
The crackdown is the latest evidence of the Government’s plans to
increase regulations covering direct marketing. Ministers have already
signalled their support for curbs on ’cold-calling’ to private homes and
the sending of unsolicited faxes, as they implement a European Union
directive (Campaign, 15 May).