The threat of a Government clampdown on advertising by drugs
companies has eased after an official promise to re-examine the
In a move which set alarm bells ringing across the ad industry last
year, the Medicines Control Agency warned pharmaceutical manufacturers
that it planned to seek the power to pre-vet all medical advertising, a
job currently carried out by the Proprietary Association of Great
Now the MCA, which sets the rules for drugs advertising, has agreed to
look again at plans to extend its powers ’in the light of industry
The MCA’s rethink comes as the Government contemplates either
legislation or a watertight code of practice to control direct marketing
by drugs companies (Campaign, last week).
Industry bodies reacted with dismay to last summer’s warning by the MCA,
which raised fears of a ’domino effect’ in which alcohol ads and those
targeted at children might also face statutory controls. The MCA claimed
an extension of its powers was needed because drugs companies were
consistently misinterpreting advertising rules.
If a statutory MCA code were imposed, companies could face fines of up
to pounds 5,000 and their directors up to five years in jail, even if
their ads conform to industry codes. There is no right of appeal against
MCA decisions and it doesn’t have to explain itself.
But although the MCA says it will reconsider the proposals, officials
have refused to consult again with interested parties, fuelling fears
that they will come up with an unworkable plan.
Sara Price, the Advertising Association’s head of public affairs, said:
’The MCA says it would only use its new powers in extreme
But we don’t believe it needs those powers in the first place. It has
never been forced to use the already considerable authority it already