Politics / Law
Acceptance for evaluating authority in consumer drug information
Brussels/Strasbourg – The pharmaceutical industry has agreed to accept a review of direct-to-consumer information on prescription medicines prior to its publication on the Internet or in newspapers. According to Euractiv, EFPIA chief Arthur Higgins confirmed in November that a majority of the members in the EU pharma association have agreed to the establishment of an independent authority with the power to decide whether data on how the drug works, its interactions and side-effects are purely factual. Experts say this should help pacify critics of the EU’s pharmaceutical package, which is to allow the industry to communicate directly to consumers. Critics have argued that allowing companies to provide information on their own products would open the door to direct advertising for prescription medicines. At a meeting with EU parliamentarians organised by conservative French MEP Françoise Grossetête, Higgins criticised EU health ministers for having apparently shelved a plan to provide high-quality information on diseases and treatments to consumers. “Patients need to be equipped to make informed choices,” he said, and has lobbied MEPs and patient organisations to prevent the proposal from being diluted or dropped.
Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) is currently only permitted in the US and New Zealand. Pharma companies are primarily interested in so-called product claim advertisements, which link the brand names of certain pharmaceuticals with claims about indications and efficacy. Most industry analysts agree that the intent behind investing in such advertisements is unquestionably to generate a financial return. According to IMS Management Consulting, which analysed sales increases in 49 advertised US brands, the return on investment “is nearly unprecedented in terms of the positive sales response generated.”
Having proven an effective means of marketing that complements campaigns targeting health professionals, annual investments in DTCA in the US climbed from US$35m in 1996 to US$4.25bn in 2005. According to estimates, DTCA in the US already makes up around 15% of total expenditures on pharma promotions.