The Advertising Association is to consult its members over whether
ads for prescription-only drugs should be allowed on the internet.
The move follows a controversial decision by the Medicines Control
Agency to allow the British Medical Journal to include drug ads on its
website, despite the ban on ads for prescription-only medicines.
Although primarily aimed at doctors, the ads will allow the public
access to information about new drugs. Ad industry leaders believe the
landmark ruling will be followed by other difficult dilemmas over the
regulation of ads on the internet.
The Consumers Association has protested strongly about the move, saying
that it could be ’the thin end of the wedge’ which leads to a
free-for-all in drugs advertising. It says this could jeopardise the
traditional relationship between doctors and patients.
The consumers’ group has held talks with the AA on the issue in an
attempt to find a common position, but the two sides differed markedly.
AA leaders argued that the public should be allowed as much information
as possible and rejected what one industry source called the ’knee-jerk
opposition’ by the Consumers Association. ’It seems to think anything
that the industry does is bound to be intrinsically bad for the
consumer,’ he said.
The AA pointed out that consumers’ groups in the US and rest of Europe
had backed calls for a more liberal regime for drugs advertising so as
to better inform patients.
Some GPs may express concern about the move, fearing they will be
inundated with requests by patients seeking new ’wonder cures’. But the
AA, which will issue a policy statement after consulting its members,
pointed out that patients could already read the journal in public