The European Commission plans to allow drugmakers to sidestep a ban on DTC by allowing them to provide "information" about their drugs to the public on TV, the internet and in print. And while consumer groups agree that better info is needed, they argue that one-sided information from a drugmaker is little more than advertising,The Guardian reports.
They warn that companies which have failed to warn of the risks of drugs such as the painkiller Vioxx, which caused heart attacks, and Seroxat, which can make young people feel suicidal, cannot be trusted as sources of unbiased information. "The proposal is clearly driven by the pharmaceutical industry's commercial concerns - not by the interests of patients," according to the Picker Institute, an authority on patient-centred healthcare, in its response to the commission.
Patients need to be able to choose between treatment and no treatment as well as between different drugs, and sometimes between drugs and surgery. "These proposals specifically exclude comparative information," the Institute's Don Redding tells the paper. "The plans enable companies to push information direct to patients and to use all available media to do that."
Meanwhile, the trade group for European pharma insists drugmakers aren't DTC advertising to be permitted within the European Union, according to a statement issued by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Associations, which says it supports the Commission’s aim of harmonizing practices on info provided patients and creating a framework for providing info to the public.
But the EFPIA objects to the Commission’s proposal to allow “push” communication through television, radio and print media for prescription medicines. The Commission consultation document suggests that: “a distinction should be made between the cases where the patient is passively receiving the information (‘push’) or actively searching for info (‘pull’).”
"After years of debate, we call on all European institutions to develop a patient-centred EU framework for information provision without further delay,” says EFPIA ceo Arthur Higgins.
The consultation document from the enterprise and industry directorate-general says: "It should be possible for the pharmaceutical industry to disseminate information on prescription-only medicines through TV and radio programmes, through printed material actively distributed, through information in printed media or through audiovisual and written material provided to patients by healthcare professionals."