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Advancing healthcare policy

Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) disguised as patient "information" [2007-2012]

Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) disguised as patient "information" [2007-2012]: In brief

  On the pretext of improving health "information", in 2008, the European Commission once again pushed for the legalisation of direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) for prescription drugs. Member States have been obstructing the legislative process since 2012.

In 2008, the European Commission made public a proposed directive and a proposed regulation on "health information", which aimed to enable direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) for prescription drugs, disguised as "information".

In September 2010, Members of the European Parliament partially improved these proposals, but serious flaws remained.

In December 2010, in the face of repeated opposition from European Member States, the European Commission appeared to have backtracked by announcing that it would be issuing amended proposals. These amended proposals were released in February 2012, but still left the door open to DTCA for prescription drugs, and in particular to "reminder advertising". Pharmaceutical companies would have been permitted to directly communicate to the public on various aspects of their drugs, providing numerous opportunities to familiarise patients with a particular brand name and to prompt them to ask health professionals to prescribe it for them.

Since 2012, the amended proposals have still not been examined by the Member States, thus obstructing the legislative process.

The Medicines in Europe Forum has drawn up counterproposals that would enable the general public to obtain relevant and independent health information.

©Prescrire November 2014