Information to patients by pharmaceutical companies: has the debate been hijacked?

31 March 2009

AGE and 10 other European organisations in the field of health have sent a joint open letter to the MEPs of the Health and Environment (ENVI) Committee to express their fears about the proposal of the European Commission regarding the role it would like to give to the pharmaceutical industry concerning information to patients on prescription-only medicines.

According to the Commission, only the pharmaceutical industry would be capable of providing patients with the information they lack, and it proposes to allow pharmaceutical companies to communicate directly with consumers about prescription drugs via all the available media.

The organisations call on the MEPs to reject this proposal, as it will lead to deregulating direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs.

Permitting pharmaceutical companies to provide information about their own medicinal products to patients within a self- or co-regulated framework will only increase consumers demand for unnecessary drugs and create new medical risks.

It seems that the Commission is more concerned about the good health of its pharmaceutical industry than about the good health of its citizens. As a network representing the largest consumers of prescription drugs, AGE sees a real danger in terms of public health as well as in terms of public spending, if the ban on direct-to-the-patient advertising is removed. Information provided by the pharmaceutical companies can never be objective, as one cannot be judge and party at the same time.

The ENVI committee will meet on Thursday 3 April to exchange views with Commission Günter Verheugen on the Commission’s proposal.

Letter to MEPs of the ENVI Committee: “Information to patients” by pharmaceutical companies: has the debate been hijacked

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