Sector gives support to drugs TV channel

Healthcare communications experts have given their backing to a controversial proposal to launch a medical television channel run by pharmaceutical companies.

The idea has been submitted as a 10-minute pilot to the EU Commission by four drugs firms: Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis and Procter & Gamble. It adds to the debate on whether to lift current restrictions on drugs firms directly promoting their products to patients.

The move to allow drugs firms TV space for promotions has been met by criticism by medical groups, including health journal body the International Society of Drug Bulletins (ISDB).

In a statement to the EU Commission, the ISDB said  that because of pharmaceutical firms’ commitment to shareholders, they are ‘utterly incapable of providing the reliable comparative information needed by patients’.

But Angie Wiles, Virgo Health joint MD, said she supported the scheme provided there was a ‘high level of transparency from those involved’.

Ralph Sutton, Axon Communications managing partner, also backed the idea, but called for it to be piloted first. ‘There is an enormous ­demand for information in areas such as HIV and diabetes. Perhaps this could work for some disease areas and not for others,’ he said.

But Catherine Warne, Red Door Commu­nications MD, said that for a pharmaceutical industry-backed TV channel to be credible it would need to have a degree of ‘consumer interactivity’. She added: ‘If you look at the internet there is a great deal of content written by consumers and that would have to be incorporated.’

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