Views & Reviews Personal View

Online marketing of medical procedures needs better regulation

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 29 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1399
  1. Richard Smith, professor of health system economics and head, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH
  1. Richard.Smith{at}

The British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons, prompted by the problems with breast implants made by Poly Implant Prosthèse (PIP), has called for several changes, including a ban on all advertising of cosmetic surgery.1 This is understandable, perhaps, as a kneejerk reaction to protect the reputation of the industry, but with increasing globalisation how realistic is such a ban?

The recent debacle has highlighted the challenges in regulating direct to consumer advertising of medical care in the internet age. In the United Kingdom, healthcare has not traditionally been viewed as a product to be marketed and advertised. Advertising for medical products, for instance, is strictly controlled by legislation and codes of practice.2 3 Promotional material on the internet directed at a UK audience is also subject to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s code of practice. …

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