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Stop direct advertising of prescription drugs now

Stop direct advertising of prescription drugs now - Greens

Direct advertising of prescription drugs to consumers should be banned immediately, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Government this morning released a discussion paper on the issue and is calling for submissions from industry and the public.

New Zealand and the United States are the only two countries in the world which allow direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

"The Government has been dithering on this issue for years. Way back in 2001 the Minister of Health promised to tighten controls on directly advertising medicines to consumers, and this had not happened.

"It is clear that self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry has been a spectacular failure. Direct to consumer advertisements are generally emotive, manipulative, short on detail and breach regulatory requirements to inform consumers of the risks and adverse effects of medicines, and other options for treating disease," Ms Kedgley says.

"We don't need yet another review or a prolonged process of discussion. There is already overwhelming evidence from research that has been undertaken on the issue that the only people who benefit from direct advertising are the pharmaceutical companies who use it to put pressure on Pharmac to subsidise new, expensive medicines, and to drive up demand for their products.

"It is time for the Government to stop dragging its feet, and finally acknowledge that our controversial experiment with allowing drugs to be directly advertised to consumers has been a failure.

"I believe the only reason the Government has allowed direct advertising to continue for so long is because of pressure from pharmaceutical and advertising industries," Ms Kedgley says.

"As well as the fact that prescription medicines, when taken inappropriately, can cause severe illness and even death, it as also astonishing the Government allows a practice that drives up Government spending on pharmaceuticals when we are having to ration cancer treatment and very sick people are on long waiting lists.

"I am calling on the Government to ban this dangerous practice immediately, and to instead set up an independent medicine and health information service that is free of commercial interests," Ms Kedgley says.

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