Intended for healthcare professionals


Direct to consumer advertising

BMJ 2004; 330 doi: (Published 30 December 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;330:5
  1. Peter R Mansfield, director (,
  2. Barbara Mintzes, postdoctoral fellow,
  3. Dee Richards, senior lecturer general practice,
  4. Les Toop, professor of general practice
  1. Department of Public Health and General Practice, Christchurch School of Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. >University of British Columbia, #429-2194 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3
  3. >Healthy Skepticism Inc., 34 Methodist St., Willunga, SA 5172, Australia

Is at the crossroads of competing pressures from industry and health needs

The challenge for governments evaluating direct advertising of prescription only drugs to the consumer is how to achieve maximum benefits for health and wealth while minimising harm. New Zealand's health minister, Annette King, has taken the advice of New Zealand's health professional and consumer groups and has decided that the potential benefits of “direct to consumer advertising” do not justify the harms and so plans to ban it from 2005.w1 That will leave the United States as the only industrialised country allowing full direct to consumer advertising of prescription medicines. An Australian review of drug legislation in 2001 concluded that prohibiting such advertising produces a net benefit for the community as a whole.1 In 2002, the European Parliament rejected a proposal to allow advertising for drugs used to treat asthma, AIDS, and diabetes directly to the consumer. A 2004 Canadian parliamentary inquiry recommended against direct to consumer advertising because “Drug advertisements could endanger rather than empower consumers by minimizing risk information and exaggerating benefits” and “could contribute to increased or inappropriate drug consumption.”2

Direct to consumer advertising increases the use of drugs and medical services and increases wealth for pharmaceutical, advertising, and media companies.3 It increases prescribers' workloads …

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