Economic Note / January 2006
According to a survey of European consumers, « the provision of better information to patients about their ailments » is the decisive point to be taken into account in improving the quality of health systems. Pharmaceutical laboratories have suggested that publicity geared to the public would contribute to such a task. But according to the EU directive 92/28 such publicity for prescriptive drugs is forbidden.
The ban on publicity for drugs is defended in the name of public health. On the basis of the idea that the pharmaceutical industry’s interest amounts to the increase of its sales and profits, opponents to the authorisation of publicity deduce from it that the messages conveyed by advertisements for drugs cannot be regarded as information worthy of this name. Instead of helping the sick to make informed decisions, advertisers would flood the media with biased even untrue information, exaggerating the virtues and minimizing the risks of pharmaceutical products. And as drugs can have harmful effects on health and even result in death, to allow publicity to develop would amount to sacrificing public health on the back of profit.