September 2001 issue Pharmacy Today magazine
TIGHTER CONTROLS, BUT DTCA TO STAY
Researched-based pharmaceutical companies breathed a sigh of relief with the news Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) will remain largely intact.
Health Minister Annette King says pharmaceutical companies will be reigned in with tighter controls, but the principle of industry self-regulation will continue.
The Researched Medicines Industry chairman Richard Nottage says the sector is "relieved and gratified" DTC has been allowed to continue.
Companies are heavily reliant on the tightly contained subsidised drug budget and sales growth for the sector has been sluggish, he says. DTCA gives companies some scope to increase business to a healthy level.
The Ministry of Health's review says there is little evidence to prove DTCA causes either potential health benefits or harm.
However, Annette King says there is some evidence DTCA increases doctor visits and prescriptions.
Pharmac chief executive Wayne McNee was unavailable for comment but a three-sentence press release from the agency supports the review's outcome.
In its submission to the Ministry of Health last year, Pharmac voiced concerns that DTCA encourages demand on subsidised pharmaceuticals, increases an unnecessary reliance on pharmaceuticals among New Zealanders and damages the patient/doctor relationship.
The ministry's recommended changes include:
Allowing only print and broadcast advertising, while banning direct promotions to individual patients, running competitions or paying for doctor visits.
Banning sponsorship of events using the drug brand names.
Banning brand names on vehicles.
Specify the amount of mandatory risk information in advertisements.
Fines could be increased for breaching regulations.
Advertising rule changes will be worked out over the next year, involving consultation with key interest groups.
Merck Sharp and Dohme, sponsor of the Propecia Rally of New Zealand, welcomes the review's recommendation.
Company spokesman Phil Johnstone says: "We're pleased the principle of self-regulation remains but we'd like to see product sponsorship stay with perhaps a high quality threshold for sponsorship rather than simply banning them."