Campaign to banish pharma advertising

Consumer campaign group Which? is spearheading a PR and lobbying drive to prevent pharma firms from advertising direct to consumers.

Which? has teamed up with nine groups representing consumers, patients and medical professionals. The alliance aims to put pressure on the European Commission (EC) to maintain the current ban on marketing prescription drugs to the public.

The EC is preparing a legislative proposal to relax the current ban. This could mean allowing pharma companies to communicate information about their branded drugs direct to consumers through TV, radio, print and other media.

The alliance claims relaxing the ban could significantly increase the NHS' drugs bill.

The British Medical Association, Family Planning Association, Picker Institute Europe, British Pharmacological Society, Mind, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Nursing and Diabetes UK are working with Which? to protest against the plans.

Which? public affairs manager Peter Moorey said: 'We need to draw a clear line between information and advertising. Otherwise it will be like letting advertising in through the back door.'

The group has written a joint letter to the EC expressing its concern that direct- to-consumer information could lead to patients demanding more expensive drugs from GPs.

Which? will also promote research into which consumers were questioned on the subject. It will be sent to the national media, and medical and health correspondents. The public affairs team at Which? will meet journalists across Europe.

'We don't want to end up like the US, where people demand specific branded drugs from their doctors when cheaper, equally effective generics are available,' said Moorey. 'This could bring a huge increase in costs.'

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