Taken at face value, the EU's decision to pilot greater freedom of information for patients in the area of AIDS, diabetes and asthma treatments, could be seen as a partial triumph for the pharmaceutical companies that have lobbied for greater freedom to pursue
direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing.
The Consumers' Association, at least, seems convinced it is the 'thin end of the wedge' leading towards the kind of D2C advertising freedom experienced in the US and New Zealand.
There is, however, a very real danger that the introduction of this limited trial might curtail the freedom already enjoyed by pharmaceutical PROs in the UK. The ABPI code, while tight, does allow PROs to communicate the product name to the lay media when there is a genuine news story. This is a clause that some have interpreted more loosely than others.
In fact, while in the more rigidly controlled markets such as France this relaxation might amount to a revolution, in more liberal markets such as the UK the code simply brings the guidance into line with current practice.
The danger is that EU scrutiny might extend to other therapy areas beyond the pilot, and that the apparent liberalism might lead to a less tolerant attitude to D2C activities across product portfolios not included in the scheme.