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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
MEPs vote against drug 'advertising'
European Parliament Brussels
MEPs may have to vote on the proposals again
The European Parliament has voted against plans to allow pharmaceutical companies to provide information on drugs directly to patients with certain conditions.

The European Commission had suggested that patients with Aids, asthma and diabetes should be allowed to obtain 'disease education' information from drug manufacturers.


MEPs were concerned that it was a foot in the door for pharmaceutical companies to promote their products through newspapers and magazines

Chris Davies MEP
The commission said its proposals would ensure all patients could access the information they wanted.

But MEPs rejected the measure. Many suggested it was a first step towards allowing companies to advertise directly to patients.

The proposals will now go back to the European Union's Council of Ministers. They have the power to order MEPs to consider the measures again.

Strong opposition

Opposition to the proposal was led by the European parliament's environment committee.

In a report published earlier this year, it suggested the pharmaceutical industry is incapable of providing impartial information on its medicines and that such information should only come from independent sources.

It also warned that the proposals could lead to an increase in the consumption of drugs, hitting healthcare costs.

Erkki Liikanen, the European Commissioner overseeing the move, had told MEPs fragmented information available on the internet not only discriminated against non-English speakers but could also be piecemeal and unreliable.

He added: "Our proposal is that European citizens should obtain information that has been validated by European regulatory authorities."

The Commission's proposals were restricted to just three chronic conditions so as not to stoke demand from patients.

But Catherine Stihler, Labour's health spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "We don't want consumers sitting on their couches bombarded with a hard sell from big drug companies in the advertising break between Crossroads and Coronation Street."

Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West of England, welcomed Wednesday's vote.

"The Commission argued that its proposal was not in favour of advertising but just in favour of better information for patients.

"But MEPs were concerned that it was a foot in the door for pharmaceutical companies to promote their products through newspapers and magazines and would not lead to better information for consumers but confusion," he told BBC News Online.

The UK's Consumers' Association also welcomed the result.

Jackie Glatter, its senior public affairs officer, said: "MEPs have recognised the threat that this posed to consumers in Europe and have prioritised public health over commercial interests."

See also:

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