Intended for healthcare professionals


Direct to consumer advertising of drugs in Europe

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 13 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:526
  1. Nicola Magrini, clinical pharmacologist1,
  2. Maria Font, pharmacist2
  1. 1CeVEAS, NHS Centre for the Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Health Care, Modena Local Health Authority, 41100 Modena, Italy
  2. 2International Society of Drug Bulletins, Pharmaceutical Department, Verona Local Health Authority, 37122 Verona, Italy
  1. n.magrini{at}

    Evidence on its benefits and harms is available but is being ignored

    The promotion of prescription drugs to the public (“direct to consumer advertising”) is currently used only in the United States and New Zealand. A systematic review of the clinical and economic consequences confirmed that this form of advertising influences patient demand and doctors' prescribing behaviour, but evidence of health benefits or improvements in underuse was lacking.1 A more recent report from the Institute of Medicine confirmed that direct to consumer advertising increases the early use of new drugs and asked for a two year moratorium of such advertising for newly approved drugs.2 Requests were made to revise the legislation towards limiting or even banning such advertising both in the US and in New Zealand3 4 after rofecoxib (a heavily advertised drug) was withdrawn from the market because it increased heart attacks.5 A proposal to modify the current ban on direct to consumer advertising will be considered by the European parliament in the next few months in the context of a wider series of reforms “to improve the regulatory, non-regulatory …

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