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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Drug ad ban upheld
The ban covers medicines for conditions including Aids
Drug companies will not be able to advertise prescription medicines direct to the public, after EU health ministers voted to uphold restrictions.

Last year, the European Commission suggested patients with Aids, asthma and diabetes should be allowed to obtain 'disease education' information from drug manufacturers.

But the European Parliament rejected the call, and referred the matter to the EU Council of Ministers, which has now issued its decision.

What patients need is high quality, independent, comparative information on medicines
Jackie Glatter, Consumers' Association
Consumer organisations welcomed the continuation of the ban on "direct to consumer" advertising.

'Clear message'

The Consumers' Association said the experience of the US, where direct advertising is permitted, showed it could be costly and affect prescribing patterns.

US spending on drugs rose by 84% from 1993 to 1998 - with almost a quarter accounted for by the 10 most heavily advertised drugs.

The CA also suggested advertising may lead to over-prescribing of expensive and heavily advertised drugs and the under-use of cheaper, more effective drugs.

It said patients also did not receive the kind of information they needed to make informed choices through advertising.

Jackie Glatter, spokeswoman for the Consumers' Association, said: "What patients need is high quality, independent, comparative information on medicines so that they are able to make informed choices about their health care.

"Today's decision sends a clear message to the pharmaceutical industry that drug promotion is not the same as good quality information.

She said: "The government now needs to take steps to significantly improve patient information.

"It must also prevent further industry attempts to circumvent the ban."

Drug ads ruled out
06 Aug 98  |  Health

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