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Warning over drug company promotion rule change

By Nigel Praities

Patients will be given misleading information about their health if plans to loosen drug promotion rules go ahead, a leading journal has claimed.

The warning – in an editorial from Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin - comes as patient groups and professional bodies launch a campaign to get the Government to change its mind about its support for the plans.

As Pulse revealed in June, the Government has enthusiastically backed EU plans to loosen restrictions on drug companies and allow them to provide more information directly to patients through online and print publications.

Currently companies in the EU are only allowed to provide information directly through patient safety leaflets, and direct advertising is banned.

‘We believe that acceptance of the European Commission's proposals would permit public dissemination of promotional information about prescription-only medicines, masquerading as "information provision",' the editorial says.

‘There is a need for independent, reliable information to enable people to make informed choices about treatment. However, pharmaceutical companies' inherent conflict of interest means it is naïve to expect them ever to provide such information.'

Don Redding, head of policy and communications at the Picker Institute Europe, said the institute is organising a coalition of patient groups and professional bodies and had asked to speak with the Health Secretary to persuade him to reverse his support for the change.

‘There are no clear boundaries between promotional materials and information and there is a real risk that the European ban on direct advertising will be breached. We would like the UK Government to review its position,' he said.

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