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Harmonised approach to direct to consumer adverts

Wednesday, 17 December 2003

Press release - for immediate release

Harmonised approach to direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals could offer greater consumer protection for New Zealanders

The cabinet decision to harmonise the rules around direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals with Australia could help protect consumers from health risks, according to the Public Health Association.

Health minister Annette King today announced that in light of the Treaty signed last week by Australia and New Zealand to set up a joint therapeutic products agency, Cabinet has agreed that she should seek to reach agreement with Australia in March 2004 on a harmonised approach to DTCA and disease-state advertising. Australia does not allow direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals but does allow advertising campaigns around disease management.

PHA spokesperson Dr Nerida Smith says harmonisation offers an important opportunity to bring New Zealand in line with the rest of the world. Dr Smith says New Zealand and the United States have been the only two countries in the world to allow direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals.

"In this case there are real advantages to adopting the Australian approach."

She says there has been a striking growth in the number of drugs being advertised in New Zealand but pharmaceuticals being advertised tend to be newer drugs without a proven record of safety.

"We have been concerned that advertisements cannot accurately reflect potential side-effects and that in fact side-effects tend to be minimised."

Dr Smith says the body set up to oversee direct to consumer advertising -the Advertising Standards Authority -has a commercial brief and that a Medsafe report showed almost complete failure of the regime to ensure quality advertising.

"The public deserves better."

The PHA believes it is important consumers have good information about managing their health. The association is calling for a new regulatory regime that encourages non-commercial campaigns promoting appropriate use of medicines and lifestyle management. Dr Smith says this could include flu immunisation information for the over-65s, correct use of asthma inhalers among children, and lifestyle management of obesity.


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