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DTCA of Prescription Medicines in the European Union: Is There Still a Need for a Ban?

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The pharmaceutical sector is one of the main markets in the European Union. The consumption of medicines is high and steadily increasing. However, the pharmaceutical market is subject to a wider range of restrictions than almost any other sector. The restrictions mainly apply to information provision and advertising practice within the community. One of the main features in pharmaceutical regulation is the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines. However, an abolition of the ban is controversial in the European Community, especially as the pharmaceutical industry keeps pleading for its ability to use the highly effective marketing strategy of DTCA to promote prescription medicines to the general public. Such advertising is only allowed in two jurisdictions in the world, New Zealand and the United States. In both systems the impact of DTCA on the consumer and the economy has been subject to research. The outcome of these studies is outlined in this article. Since the European Commission has provided a new proposal to amend the current information practice regarding prescription medicines in 2008 (European Commission, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council Amending, as Regards Information to the General Public on Medicinal Products Subject to Medical Prescription, Directive 2001/83/EC on the Community Code Relating to Medicinal Products for Human Use, COM/2008/0663 final) it is time to examine different options to regulate the provision of information and discuss the need for a ban of DTCA.

Affiliations: 1: Doctoral student, Institute for Health and Medical Law (IGMR), University of Bremen, Germany

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