Trade association and pressure group, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, yesterday predicted that advertising prescription drugs to the general public – banned under current British and EU legislation – could soon become a fact of European life.

But ABPI director-general Trevor Jones denied that the body is hyping direct-to-consumer promotion (DTC) – a practice that is anathema to those European governments with state-funded health services because of likely escalation in drug costs.

In the USA, where D-T-C drug promotion on TV has been permitted since 1997, the practice has spawned an industry worth $1.3 billion in the first half of 2000. Some of the biggest D-T-C spenders in the US are European-headquartered companies, with GlaxoSmithKline at the fore.

Jones revealed that the ABPI is talking to Britain’s Department of Health about an easing of the limitations on what information drug advertisers can give to consumers. While pharma companies are allowed to provide extensive product data to financial analysts, he said, the same information could not be shared with consumers.

European barricades are already under assault by the industry via "disease awareness" campaigns, highlighting health problems and possible treatments. The UK has already witnessed such a promotion – a high profile Pharmacia press drive urging the public to seek treatment for urinary incontinence – a medical condition for which it manufactures one of the leading (but unmentioned) drugs.

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)