Fifty-seven percent of consumers want drug advertising banned.
You’ve probably seen ads on TV or in magazines promoting a prescription medicine and suggesting you ask your doctor if it’s right for you. The ads promote medicines for a range of conditions from asthma to diabetes and high cholesterol.
New Zealand and the US are the only two countries in the developed world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines. We’ve been campaigning for it to be banned because these ads don’t provide consumers with useful information and increase the risk of medicines being overprescribed.
Our latest survey found the majority of Kiwis want the ads to go. Fifty-seven percent supported banning ads for prescription medicines, in favour of a health information service that provided independent information about treatment options.
Just 15% thought drug advertising should continue.
Our survey also found most consumers had a negative opinion of the information these ads provide. Drug companies claim DTCA helps inform consumers but most Kiwis don’t share this view.
Just 8% strongly agreed drug ads provided unbiased and comprehensive information about treatment.
Fifty-nine percent disagreed. The same proportion strongly felt drug companies were likely to spend most money advertising medicines that gave them the most profit.
One of our major concerns about drug advertising is that it can lead to unnecessary prescribing. Ads sell the promise of a quick fix, but we don’t think they provide all the facts needed for consumers to make an informed choice.
Ads also put pressure on doctors to prescribe medications.
One in eight consumers said an ad had prompted them to ask for a prescription medicine from their doctor or other health professional. Of those, 45% got the prescription they requested while 21% got a prescription for another medicine.
A study of 2057 Kiwis, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, showed those with unhealthier lifestyles were more likely to respond to medicine ads, raising concerns of drugs being used to treat diseases that would otherwise be improved through lifestyle changes.
The Ministry of Health has been consulting on whether the law should continue to allow medicine advertising. We’ve submitted in favour of a ban and we’ll be providing the results of our latest research to the ministry and Minister of Health David Clark.
The Council of Medical Colleges of New Zealand, the New Zealand Medical Association, The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the New Zealand Nurses Association also back a ban.