english.prescrire.org > Spotlight > Archives : 2011 > Control of adverts for medicinal products in France: opaque and of dubious efficacy

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Control of adverts for medicinal products in France: opaque and of dubious efficacy

The French Health Products Safety Agency has forced pharmaceutical companies to modify a number of advertisements aimed at health professionals, but there’s no way of knowing which ones.

Adverts for medicinal products aimed at health professionals are controlled by the French Health Products Safety Agency (Afssaps) after they have been released. The Agency has the power to impose three types of sanction against adverts deemed inappropriate: an order to modify the advert; banning the advert; and banning the advert as well as demanding the publication of a rectification.

Notifications of banned adverts have been published in France's "Journal Officiel" since 1990. Prescrire has been notifying its readers of them since 1992.

However, orders to modify adverts are not published in the Journal Officiel. Afssaps’ 2008 report lists 298 orders relating to 1159 different dossiers, i.e. 13% of the dossiers filed by pharmaceutical companies in 2008. The report gives a few examples of reasons for issuing such orders, but does not specify the drugs concerned. Health professionals were thus exposed to non-compliant ads without ever knowing it!

When will the Journal Officiel publish orders to modify adverts and furthermore, when will these be published on the Afssaps website?

©Prescrire 1 June 2011

"Control of drug advertising in France: opaque and ineffective" Prescrire Int 2011; 20 (117): 166. (Pdf, subscribers only)

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