Head To Head

Should drug companies be allowed to talk directly to patients?

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7402.1302 (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1302
  1. Trevor Jones (abpi@abpi.org.uk), director general1
  1. 1 ABPI, London SW1A 2DY

    For truly informed decision making, patients need access to high quality information on treatments. Trevor Jones of the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and Wendy Garlick of the Consumers' Association debate whether drug advertising direct to the public would help the quest for such information

    Increasingly, patients have been seeking to learn more about their health and about treatments available. A symptom of the demand for this greater awareness and choice has been the growth of patient organisations. They provide information—often in great detail—to patients and therefore require a full understanding of, and information about, the diseases in which they specialise and the appropriate treatments. But they do not have the same level of information about medicines as a manufacturer.

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    Until now, other than through patient information leaflets, legal restrictions have made it difficult for pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide information to patients about the medication they take. But patient information leaflets—contained in medicine packs—have essentially become part of the regulatory dossier and, in many cases, cannot practicably provide comprehensive information about medicines to patients. Nor do patients, carers, and the public have direct access …

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