Victory for Commonsense in Ban on Direct-to-Patient Advertising

12 Sep 2000

The AMA today said a national review's recommendation to continue banning the advertising of prescription medicines was a victory for commonsense.

AMA Federal President, Dr Kerryn Phelps, said the AMA had lobbied strongly against the introduction of direct-to-patient advertising on the basis that it would increase the demand for and cost of drugs and encourage "doctor shopping" by patients.

"We wholeheartedly support the recommendation of The National Competition Policy Review of Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances that the current prohibition on direct-to-patient advertising be retained," Dr Phelps said.

"We also support the review's broader findings that comprehensive government legislation is needed to regulate the supply and use of drugs and poisons, regardless of these controls restricting competition."

Dr Phelps said analysis of direct advertising to consumers in the USA and Canada had found that information on the risks and benefits of products had been misleadingly positive and there had been a lack of attention to warnings.

"We realise patients need as much information as possible about prescribed medicines, but advertising and promotion are not the way to go, when patient health is at risk.

"Advertising is about increasing sales, not about presenting balanced information in the interests of patient education," she said. "Specifically targeted, comprehensive public health campaigns are a far more responsible approach."

Dr Phelps said the inevitable outcome of direct-to-patient advertising was more use of medications, with increased costs to the healthcare system and to patients.

"GPs prescribe on the basis of the patient's history and individual clinical situation and they help provide safe, reliable information," Dr Phelps said. "Advertising to patients would place undue pressure on the doctor-patient relationship."

"We urge the government to take the review's recommendations on drug advertising seriously, in the interests of public safety." Dr Phelps said.

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