EC Mulls Relaxation of Prescription Drug Advertising Rules

18 July 2001

The European Commission today will publish new draft proposals governing the regulation of prescription drugs. To the fore is an accelerated approvals process for new drug products and cautious relaxation of the stringent rules that bar direct-to-consumer advertising.

The latter will not open European floodgates to a consumer drug marketing torrent as witnessed in the USA – at least not initially. TV and press advertising is a non-starter and only limited marketing will be permitted via company websites and pamphlets. Even this will be restricted to ads for certain conditions, among them AIDS, asthma and diabetes.

However, analysts and other onlookers believe this initial cautious relaxation could pave the way to consumer direct marketing campaigns as Europeans become adjusted to approaches from pharmaceuticals companies, as well as the continuing trend toward individually financed healthcare.

Presently, most European patients rely on doctors for state or insurer-approved treatment information, the cost of which is reimbursed by government or private health schemes.

The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations claims it doesn't want US-style marketing or direct-to-consumer , although it argues that consumers should be offered more information routes.

“It's really push versus pull," says EFPIA director general Brian Ager. “[In the US] you have it pushed on you. Here in Europe, if you should come down with a disease tomorrow, you should be able to pull the necessary information from somewhere.”

“In a world in which anyone can put anything about a drug on the internet,” Ager continued, “the companies and the scientists who know those molecules best are the only ones who can't.”

News source: Wall Street Journal