BRUSSELS: European pharmaceutical  manufacturers should be allowed greater scope to provide information directly to patients, according to a recommendation by the High Level Pharmaceutical Forum, convened by the European Commission.

The Forum – which meets once a year – comprises  a mixture of pharma companies, consumer groups, representatives from member nations and EU staff.

Following its third annual meeting, the HLPF concluded that "all the relevant players" should be able to provide an improved "quality of information" to consumers – though the Forum fell short of supporting direct-to-consumer advertising as practised in the US.

In particular, it emphasised the "added value for patients and citizens of providing information on medical conditions jointly with information on treatment options." 

The EU's enterprise and industry minister, Gunther Verheugen, is also said to be working on draft legislation suggesting that drug manufacturers be allowed to market their products in an "objective and unbiased" way both in writing and online.

Arthur Higgins, president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, said: "We strongly believe that better access to health information will lead to healthier behaviour and better compliance." 

Sophie Bloemen, of Health Action International Europe – a not-for-profit organisation focusing on drug policy – disagrees: "We oppose all forms of direct 'push' communication by pharmaceutical companies. Information from industry will always have a tendency to be biased."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff