Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines

New Zealand is almost alone in the world in allowing direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (DTCA). The United States of America is perhaps the only other nation that allows this form of advertising, although it is more heavily regulated in the USA than it is in NZ.

This state of affairs is rather unusual in that the health industry in America is predominantly in private ownership, whereas here in Aotearoa it predominantly in the public sector. Two health systems at opposite ends of the public/private spectrum, yet sharing similar attitudes to the advertising of prescription medicines.

So, how did this situation arise? In the case of the USA, regulations were relaxed during the 1980s and 1990s, whereas in NZ there appears that DTCA was overlooked altogether when the New Zealand Medicines Act was enacted in 1981.

The question is: Should NZ to continue allowing DTCA or should we adopt regulations similar to every other country, apart from the USA have established? I tend to agree with the conclusion reached in this article in the New Zealand Medical Journal:

Pharmaceutical companies have touted DTCA as a pro-consumer activity, encouraging dialogue, empowerment and choice. Whilst available evidence is incomplete, it generally refutes this view. DTCA is a biased source of health information and is associated with unnecessary prescribing, iatrogenic harm and unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

What’s your view?