EU Parliament Blocks Lifting of Drug Ad Ban

25 October 2002

The European Parliament has rejected proposals to allow pharmaceutical firms to advertise directly to the public.

Members threw out proposed legislation from the European Commission which would have lifted the drugs advertising ban for “disease education information” relating to Aids, diabetes and asthma.

The EC denied accusations that its proposals would lead to a mêlée of medicinal marketing, claiming that its goal was solely to allow citizens to “obtain information that has been validated by European regulatory authorities.”

However, members supported an argument from the parliament’s environment committee that the pharmaceuticals industry cannot be trusted to supply impartial advice. Consumers, state the committee, should be given such information by independent bodies.

Moreover, many parliamentarians feel that lifting any part of the ban on marketing drugs direct would be the thin end of the wedge.

“If we open the door to direct advertising,” blasted Catherine Stihler, the British Labour Party’s health spokesperson to the parliament, “it is a slippery slope down the American road where pink pills on television advertisements offer a miracle solution to everything from baldness to chronic fatigue.

“No one could ever be against consumer information, but we must ensure the quality and independence of the information.”

The proposals will now pass to European Union health ministers for reconsideration, before returning to the parliament – where there is every chance they will be thrown out again.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff