Britain’s OTC Drug Ad Ban Eased

13 August 2003

The UK Department of Health has lifted the advertising ban on a number of drugs which, although sold over-the-counter at pharmacies and supermarkets, have until now been banned from advertising direct to consumers.

Although most other OTC pharma products are allowed to advertise to the public, the newly degregulated brands will not be free to advertise until guidelines for advertisers and information and training for pharmacy staff have been formulated.

Among the ailments for which OTC treatments can soon be advertised are …

• Bone diseases
• Cardiovascular diseases
• Diseases of the liver, biliary system and pancreas
• Endocrine diseases
• Genetic disorders
• Joint, rheumatic and collagen diseases
• Psychiatric diseases
• Serious disorders of the eye and ear
• Serious gastrointestinal diseases
• Serious neurological and muscular diseases
• Serious renal disease
• Serious respiratory diseases
• Serious skin disorder

However, the easing of the ad rules will not be extended to prescription-only medicines which, with a handful of generic exceptions, cannot be advertised direct to consumers.

According to government health minister Lord Norman Warner: “Removing the restrictions on promoting non-prescription medicines to the public has the potential to bring real public health benefits by giving more power and information direct to patients.”

But there is no concession in prospect when for direct-to-consumer advertising of treatments for other illnesses, among them …

• Chronic insomnia
• Diabetes and other metabolic diseases
• Malignant diseases
• HIV-related disease
• Tuberculosis
• Sexually transmitted infection

The lifting of restrictions and consequent policing will be overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, after consultation with health professionals, advertising regulators, patient groups and the drugs industry.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff