Skip to content
11 May 2023

Experts say it's time to ban direct-to-consumer drug ads

Survey finds consumers support call to ban prescription medicine ads.

Leading health experts are calling on the government to ban direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines in the Therapeutic Products Bill.

In a New Zealand Medical Journal article, the experts say getting rid of the ads will “promote population health” while reducing over-diagnosis, over-treatment and patient harm.

The experts say the government’s arguments for keeping DTCA in the bill don’t stack up with international research, and “bear similarity to those advanced by Medicines New Zealand, a body representing the pharmaceutical industry.”

We agree DTCA should be banned – we’ve been calling for a ban for years.

Many consumers support the call. In our recent survey, we asked consumers whether DTCA should be banned in favour of an independent advice service about health treatments. Forty-four percent agreed, while 29% said no, and 27% didn’t know.

Nearly half (47%) of respondents strongly agreed that pharmaceutical companies were most likely to spend big on advertising products that make them the most profit.

While only 17% thought the drug companies were good at giving out information about possible side effects and risks in their ads.

Twenty percent strongly agreed the drug company ads were trying to convince consumers they may have illnesses they don’t have.

Why DTCA should be banned

Consumer NZ has submitted on the Therapeutic Products Bill. While we agree with some aspects of the bill – such as the regulation of natural health products and sunscreens – we're disappointed the bill doesn’t ban DTCA.

We think DTCA should be banned because the ads:

  • don’t give consumers all the information they need to make an informed decision

  • increase the risk of over prescribing and health risks for consumers

  • create extra cost to the consumer and the health system

  • aren’t being regulated effectively within the industry

  • are banned in most countries – New Zealand and the United States are the only developed countries that still have it.

Join donate promo

We can't do this without you.

Consumer NZ is independent and not-for-profit. We depend on the generous support of our members and donors to keep us fighting for a better deal for all New Zealanders. Join us today to support our work.


Member comments

Get access to comment