European Ban on Drug Ads Under Pressure

Prescription pillsLater this month, proposals "that would jeopardise the current ban on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs" in the European Union will be unveiled, reports Hannah Brown. The European Commission, which drafts legislation for the European Parliament, suffered a humiliating defeat when similar proposals to weaken the ban were resoundingly rejected in 2002. The commission is expected to propose that drug companies be allowed to provide "information," but not engage in product-specific advertising. "There is no discussion of whether industry is going to be an unbiased source about its own or other products or decisions not to treat," said Barbara Mintzes from the University of British Columbia. A coalition of public health groups opposing the anticipated changes argue that "relevant, comparative and appropriate information on health issues cannot be provided by drug companies," because they focus on promoting their product and ignore alternative, non-drug treatments.