Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Border Crossing

Purely medicinal?

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 27 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:693
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ
  1. trichards{at}

    We must grasp the opportunity to respond to a controversial EU proposal to allow drug companies to provide information on prescription only drugs directly to the public

    How easy is it to draw a clear line between providing information about a product and promoting it? Most of us would regard it as difficult, if not impossible. Not the European Commission, though—at least not when the product is a drug. This is evident in a new and already much criticised consultation paper on patient information ( This paper sets out the commission’s ambitious proposals to provide Europe’s citizens with “uniform access to understandable, objective, high quality, and non-promotional information” on drugs. Central to these plans is a move to allow manufacturers to provide information on prescription drugs directly to the public, under the “clear safeguard” that advertisement is banned. Responses to the paper are invited to help inform a draft directive that will include proposals to reform the way drugs are assessed and priced. So why the criticism?

    The answer lies in the history behind the document as well as its content.

    Europe’s drug industry has been struggling in an increasingly tough global …

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