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E-DRUG: Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines

E-DRUG- Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines

Dear Colleagues


I am aware of recent discussion about researchers using this list to 
scour for information which is primarily for commercial uses. Be warned: 
I am about to do the same! However, I hope to be able to do this in a 
way which will also allow better sharing of the results.

The first part of this note is about the background and my justification 
for asking for help in this way. The second section is an invitation for 
your comments and opinions. I hope in this way to try to initiate some 
form of 'best practice'. Comments on this would also be welcome so we 
might all know where we stand in the future when wanting information for 
this sort of work.

                        SECTION ONE

I have a background in consumerism and have worked at the Consumers 
Association and now at the King's Fund in London. Those who know me - I 
hope - would vouch for my 'independent' credentials! Thus, I was 
(pleasantly) surprised to be approached by Scrip Reports - the World 
Pharmaceutical News, publishers for the industry - to write a background 
report on the trends towards Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of 
Prescription Medicines - the pros and cons, issues and controversies, 
regulation and policy options, and views of stakeholders.

The report will cost (I have little control over this) 195 UK Pounds 
Sterling (half-price to non-profit making groups). I will try to provide 
this list with the executive summary once it is published (along with 
other small sections of the report if possible).

My aim is that the report will be challenging to all stakeholders - 
including industry - and will be of benefit to clinicians, regulators, 
patient and consumer groups, companies, etc. Thus, not just about 
enabling industry to sell more drugs, though the appeal to companies 
might be in allowing them to see more clearly consumerist concerns.

My time limit is too short (as ever!) and I aim to complete by 27th of 

So far, my report is heading towards the following type of structure:

1. intro to DTCA; why now; the information explosion; new trends in drug 
promotion; trends in healthcare

2. types of DTCA; aims and objectives of advertising and promotion; the 
US experience; recent guidance from the FDA; TV; radio; print; internet; 
news in, and use of the general media; disease awareness campaigns; 
marketing of new drugs; sponsorship of information materials; links with 
patient groups; gathering data; patient mailings;

3. issues and controversies; is advertising commensurate with education; 
effects on consumers; information quality issues; quality of ads for OTC 
drugs; ads for clinicians; links between ads and prescribing; effects on 
doctor-patient relationships; attitudes towards DTCA; consumer choice 
issues; medicalisation of everyday problems; resource considerations; 
access to information issues;

4. regulatory futures; govt controls; self-regulation; codes (eg. WHO 
ethical criteria, IFPMA etc); future options.


                        SECTION TWO

If you have struggled this far, I am now going to ask for some help.

I would like to know your opinions on whether direct-to-consumer 
advertising of prescription drugs is a good or bad thing. It's really as 
simple as that. If you could illustrate you response with examples from 
your own countries, great, if it's only an opinion - equally great. The 
point is to enable me to get a reality check on work I have done thus 
far (believe me I have done some work before asking for help!).

My own feeling is that there may be four broad positions one could take:
- In favour of DTCA ('yes' to DTCA)
- Not in favour of DTCA ('no' to DTCA)
- Cautiously in favour  ('yes, but' to DTCA. ie.. with safeguards and 
- Sceptical ('no, unless' which would sort of say, it should only be 
allowed if other areas of the drug regulatory system are also opened up. 
ie. transparency of information in licensing, pricing, etc)

What do you think?

I would invite you to make your comments open to the whole list. 
Alternatively, I could summarise the info I get in this way, anonymise 
it and feed it back to the list in a couple of weeks time.


I hope this makes sense and presents a reasonable approach to requesting 
information for such activities.

With best wishes

David Gilbert

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