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Ban on consumer advertising of medicines supported

PHA supports call for ban on direct to consumer advertising of medicines

The Public Health Association is calling for the Minister of Health to act on a new report recommending a ban on direct to consumer advertising of medicines.

The PHA says the report to Health Minister Annette King from professors of general practice from medical schools around the country raises important questions about the safety and cost-effectiveness of this form of advertising. The report points out direct to consumer advertising tends to focus on newer drugs without a long track record of safety.

PHA spokesperson and senior lecturer in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Otago University, Dr Nerida Smith says it is foolish to assume that a commercially-driven advertising system of prescription medicines can be self-regulating.

"Restraint and ethical behaviour are not rewarded, only sales."

Dr Smith says it is important that consumers have access to unbiased information on matters of public interest in pharmaceuticals.

"DTCA should therefore be abolished, as it is in every other developed country except the United States."

In its place the PHA is calling for a regulatory regime that encourages non-commercial campaigns to promote the high-quality use of medicines (for example, flu immunisation for the over-65s, or correct use of asthma inhalers among children, or sensible use of antibiotics).

Dr Smith says the Minister of Health should set up a formal consultation process with health professional groups and consumers to consider regulations around direct to consumer advertising. She says there has been concern about direct to consumer advertising in New Zealand for many years and the issue has dragged on for too long.

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