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Thursday, 6 August, 1998, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Drug ads ruled out
Chemists
Medicines should not be advertised directly to patients, says Mr Dobson
Health Secretary Frank Dobson has ruled out advertising prescription medicines directly to the public.

In an interview in this week's Pharmaceutical Times, he said he thought the public did not have enough information to be able to respond well to concerted advertising campaigns by drug manufacturers.

The US government allows drug companies to advertise their wares directly to the public, but Mr Dobson says he fears that cutting out the pharmacist could bring the industry into disrepute.

"If trained doctors and nurses feel they need the advice of a pharmacist about a product, then I'm damned sure the public needs some advice on pharmaceutical products," he said.

Patient power

The government has, however, committed itself to giving patients more information about their treatment and health.

And many companies, such as Pfizer, manufacturer of impotence drug Viagra, advertise their wares on the Web.

Mr Dobson said there were freedom of information arguments for getting data on drugs on the Web and allowing people to make their own choices. But he felt this was "going down the wrong road".

The US Food and Drug Administration relaxed rules on advertising drugs on TV and radio last year. Until then, all drug companies had to publish a list of technical information about their drugs together with claims about their beneficial effects.

In August 1997, it changed the rules for TV and radio adverts, but stipulated that they had to mention all major side effects and point out where information on minor side effects could be found.

The policy is subject to review.

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