Drug Ads Debate Heats Up in Europe and New Zealand

A coalition of European health groups, including the International Society of Drug Bulletins and the Medicines in Europe Forum, is alarmed at a renewed campaign by the drug industry to lift the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising in Europe. While acknowledging consumer information about health is essential, the groups are concerned that backdoor direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) through "disease awareness" campaigns and the direct or indirect funding of patient groups by drug companies "have blurred the boundaries between drug promotion and health information." They argue that there "needs to be a clear distinction between information and advertising that is disguised as 'information.'" Meanwhile, the New Zealand Minister for Health, Pete Hodgson, has said that he will shortly announce a decision on a review of DTCA advertising. New Zealand and the U.S. are the only countries which currently allow DTCA ads. Public health groups are urging the government to ban the ads.