As Big Pharma celebrates the tenth anniversary of the direct to consumer advertising bonanza in the US, there may be more good news for the industry coming out of Europe.
The European Commission had steadfastly prohibited the practice on the continent, but last week its officials proposed legislation allowing drug companies to provide consumers “objective and non-promotional information” about their drugs in magazines and on Web sites.
The information could cover for example side effects, prices or anything that “presents the medicinal product in the context of the condition to be prevented or treated,” according to Commission documents reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
No one’s holding their breath of course because this is Europe: the legislation must be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and that could take years.
The Commission, which is the Executive arm of the European Union, believes the current ban is woefully out of date in an era when consumers are heavily involved in their care and routinely seek out medical information on the Web.
Speaking for the Commission, Gunter Verheugen VP of enterprise and industry emphasized the EU is not relaxing its ban on drug advertising. “There will be strict rules regarding content and these will be tightly monitored,” he told the Journal.
European consumer protection groups do not support the Commission’s decision, because they don’t believe Big Pharma can be trusted.
“It’s just a disguised way of giving pharmaceutical companies greater flexibility to provide the information they want on prescription medicines,” Monique Goyens told the Journal.
It’s safe to say that Goyens, director of the European Consumers’ Organization, would not encounter many in the US who disagree with that.