In October of 2002 the European Parliament voted against plans to allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise or provide information on drugs directly to patients with certain conditions. 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.”
A challenge to that ruling was upheld by the European Union’s Council of Ministers in a ruling that upheld the restrictions. In effect drug companies will not be able to advertise prescription medicines direct to the public. The latest reports appeared in the June 3, 2003 BBC News World Report.
The BBC article noted that consumer organizations welcomed the continuation of the ban on “direct to consumer” advertising. PillsJackie 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.” A report published earlier in 2002 suggested that the pharmaceutical industry is incapable of providing impartial information on its medicines and that such information should only come from independent sources.
“Today’s decision sends a clear message to the pharmaceutical industry that drug promotion is not the same as good quality information.” Glatter said: “The government now needs to take steps to significantly improve patient information. It must also prevent further industry attempts to circumvent the ban.” The Consumers’ Association also suggested advertising may lead to over-prescribing of expensive and heavily advertised drugs and the under-use of cheaper, more effective drugs.