Greens Shocked Drug Ads Can Continue
Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said she was shocked that the Health Minister Annette King has refused to ban direct to consumer advertising of drugs, despite Pharmac's support for a ban.
"Pharmac has consistently argued that direct to consumer advertising drives up demand for subsidised pharmaceuticals, increases unnecessary prescribing of pharmaceuticals, strains the pharmaceutical budget and cause severe damage to Health Care Funding.
"At a time of massive projected deficits in the health sector, I am astonished that the Minister has ignored Pharmac's advice and allowed direct to consumer advertising to continue," she said. "The changes to regulations the Minister is proposing instead of a direct ban will not result in any significant reduction in direct to consumer advertising."
Ms Kedgley said the evidence against Direct to Consumer Advertising is compelling, as it increases prescriptions and can strain the doctor-patient relationship.
"You end up in a situation where patients think they know more about the drugs used to treat their condition than their doctor does. Patients who are only moderately overweight for instance, see Xenical advertised on TV and they go to the doctor wanting an easy answer and a prescription."
Ms Kedgley said ads were only used to market expensive drugs still under patent protection, and drugs which attract Pharmac subsidies, because the purpose was to make more money for pharmaceutical companies.
"Pharmac studies have demonstrated that three drug advertising campaigns cost the taxpayer $7.4 million in one year. Aggressive TV advertising for the drug Zocor increased volumes by 136 percent within a year."
"These studies confirm that direct to consumer advertising will inevitably increase government spending on pharmaceuticals by driving up demand for subsidised drugs," she said. "It will focus demand on newer more expensive medicines when older, cheaper ones may be just as effective."
Ms Kedgley said direct to consumer advertisements are emotive, manipulative and short on detail. "They often do not adequately inform consumers of the risks or adverse effects of medicines and can present an unbalanced picture of the potential risks that all pharmaceutical drugs carry."