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Approach To Drug Advertising A Huge Step Forward

Cabinet Decision On Harmonised Approach To Drug Advertising A Huge Step Forward

The authors of the report “For Health or Profit?”, released in February calling on the Minister of Health to support a ban on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs, congratulate the Government on it’s decision today to harmonise New Zealand’s approach to DTCA and disease-state advertising with Australia.

"We are very pleased Cabinet has made this decision," says Professor of General Practice, Les Toop, from the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago. “We support this sensible decision on behalf of consumers. It has taken some determination from the Minister of Health, Annette King, to follow through with this in the face of considerable pressure from commercial vested interests.”

General Practitioners throughout New Zealand have strongly supported an end to DTCA, and more balanced and comprehensive information for the public. "Decisions about taking lifelong medication are very important and constant and often misleading brand advertising doesn’t give a balanced view of treatment options." says co-author of the report Dr Dee Richards. "Drugs have been ‘sold’ as if they are consumer goods, creating unrealistic expectations. GPs will be pleased that the health decisions they share with patients about medicines will once again be based on science and common sense.”

"Like all other developed countries, except the USA, Australia doesn’t allow this kind of advertising. Today’s positive decision is the first step in moving New Zealand back into line with most of the developed world," says Professor Toop

Many consumer groups have also supported the call for curbs on advertising, in favour of more balanced independent health information. "Overseas, consumer groups have also been the strongest opponents of direct to consumer advertising of prescription medicines. To make these choices the public deserves access to balanced information about the comparative risks, benefits and uncertainties of treatments. Removing brand advertising is an excellent first step. Cabinet is to be congratulated for putting public health ahead of commercial interests," says Dr. Richards.

The authors of the report say today’s decision needs to be followed up by ensuring consumers have ready access to balanced and trustworthy health information that is completely free from commercial influence.

Most New Zealand health professional groups, including the NZ Medical Association, The Royal NZ College of General Practitioners, the NZ Nursing Organisation and the College of Midwives are all in favour of a ban on DTCA. They are also urging the Government to replace it with comprehensive independent consumer health information.

Professor Toop and Dr Richards are two of the general practice academics who contributed to the 60 page report to the Minister of Health "Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in New Zealand: For Health or for Profit?". The others are Professor Tony Dowell, Professor Murray Tilyard, Tony Fraser, and Associate Professor Bruce Arroll from the Departments of General Practice in the other three New Zealand medical schools. The report can be downloaded from:

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