Pharmaceuticals giants including GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly,
Novartis and Astra Zeneca are likely to get the green light to advertise
dozens of prescription drug brands under a relaxation of European
Commission rules being announced this week.
Led by Erkki Liikanen, the Finnish commissioner responsible for the
Directorate General for Enterprise, the EC is tabling a proposal that
would permit drugs firms to promote medications for AIDS, diabetes and
bronchio-pulmonary ailments through their web sites.
It will allow some direct-to-consumer advertising for the drugs for a
five-year trial period under as yet undefined restrictions.
If adopted by member states - a process that could take several years -
the plan would contain some form of opt-in, so that firms could not
distribute unsolicited product information to consumers.
The EC and the pharmaceutical industry emphasised that the decision
would not lead to mass direct-to-consumer US-style advertising.
Richard Ley, a spokesman for the Association of the British
Pharmaceutical Industry, said the group welcomed the shift, but added
that it would have little effect in the UK, where pharmaceutical
companies have more leverage than in much of Europe. "We are the prime
source for information about medicines. We've spent ten to 12 years
developing them," he said.
Brands affected would include diabetes drugs such as Novartis' Starlyx,
asthma brands such as Astra Zeneca's Oxix, and anti-AIDS drugs such as
Feature, page 29.