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Advertising medicines more likely to cause harm than benefit

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) strongly opposes the targeted advertising of prescription medicines and medical devices directly to end users.

In response to the proposed changes to the Therapeutics Products Bill, Dr Susanna Every-Palmer, Deputy Chair of the RANZCP New Zealand National Committee – Tu Te Akaaka Roa – stressed the RANZCP’s view that the proposed legislation should be revised in order to ban direct-to-consumer advertising.

‘Studies have shown there are cases where patients don’t need medication but have been convinced they do by advertising they’ve seen. When doctors respond to these ill-advised wishes, the result is over-prescribing, which in turn leads to higher costs and the very real potential for harm.’

‘Health professionals are placed in the awkward position of convincing their patients there’s a more appropriate, more effective – or cheaper, generic – medication than the one in the ad and having to refuse a patient’s request.’

‘Inherent in the very nature of direct-to-consumer advertising is the spectre of competition and commercialisation – which don’t necessarily lend themselves to best evidence-based practice,’ said Dr Every-Palmer.

RANZCP Fellow, Associate Professor David Menkes, added that no other developed country, besides the USA, allowed this sort of advertising.

‘Risks must be effectively communicated. Certainly consumers must be free to make informed choices when it comes to medicines or medical devices, but such choices require clear, reliable and unbiased information based on scientific evidence.’

‘This kind of decision-making occurs within a sound doctor-patient relationship and can be distorted by the effects of advertising,’ said Associate Professor Menkes.

Ms Dawn Hastings, a RANZCP consumer representative affirmed that people need good conversations and unbiased information.

‘Most people feel ill-equipped to really assess what pharmaceutical advertising means to them’.

‘In fact, 9 out of 10 independent consumer and patient organisations oppose direct-to-consumer advertising. Many consumers will incorrectly assume only the safest medicines are allowed to be advertised.’

The RANZCP supports shared decision-making in accordance with the principles of evidence-based practice.

‘The New Zealand government continuing to allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicine is quite simply, not wise, and it should not continue,’ said Dr Every-Palmer.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

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