Tories to oppose Govt drug ads clampdown

The Government is to go ahead with a clampdown on advertising by drug companies despite strong opposition from the ad industry.

The Government is to go ahead with a clampdown on advertising by

drug companies despite strong opposition from the ad industry.



New curbs proposed by the Medicines Control Agency could take effect as

early as 5 April. The Advertising Association, which believed the threat

of statutory rules had receded, has accused the MCA of failing to honour

its pledge to consult the industry.



This week the Tory Opposition launched a last-ditch attempt to block the

move when William Hague tabled a Commons motion against the

regulations.



He hopes this will force a Parliamentary debate and that the Government

will think again.



The MCA, which has revived proposals it first mooted in 1997, argues

that the changes are needed because of ’routine misinterpretation’ of

the existing rules by drugs companies. Under the proposals, the agency

would have the power to suspend or ban ads, and anyone breaching such an

order would face a fine of up to pounds 5,000 or two years in

prison.



The AA attacked the proposals as ’draconian, unjustified,

unconstitutional and of dubious legality’. Its leaders claimed the MCA

had postponed three meetings at which the curbs were due to be

discussed. ’They are an unwarranted extension of the MCA’s powers,’ an

AA spokesperson said.



The association warned that the MCA would be acting as ’judge, jury and

prosecutor’ because it would have the power to approve an ad and then

consider a complaint about it. There would be no mechanism to avoid

inconsistency between the agency and other regulatory bodies, such as

the Advertising Standards Authority.



The AA has received legal advice that the proposals could be challenged

under the Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European convention

into British law.



Welcoming the Tory move, the AA said: ’The MCA must be called to justify

these proposals and explain how they will be amended to ensure that the

rights of natural justice are not undermined. If they cannot, then the

regulations must not be passed.’



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