Say "no" to drug ads

Fifty-seven percent of consumers want drug advertising banned.

Pouring pills into hand from white bottle.

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.

Majority support ban

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.

Information not helpful

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.

More medication

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.

What we’re doing

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.

Member comments

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John C.
21 Aug 2019
Anti-bacterial soaps

I would like to see the campaign exposed to include all the "kills 99% of bacteria" ads for soaps, sanitizers and the like. For a start, not all bacteria are bad, and secondly, they promote the spread of drug-resistant bacteria by eliminating all the others, whether they cause disease or not.

Alan B C.
17 Aug 2019
Ask yourself

Ask yourself "when did the knowledge of 20 - 30 seconds of advertising out weigh the many years of training and experience of a Doctor?"

Maureen D.
14 Aug 2019
Banning advertising of prescription medicines - protection or paternalism?

As a long-tern member & advocate of Consumer, I question where the impetus has come for this campaign? Where is the evidence of harm? Doctors are the gatekeepers of prescription medicines and should have the professionalism to prescribe according to evidence and be able to communicate their prescribing decisions confidently to their patients. However, we know that consultation times are very brief and very often effective doctor-patient don't occur. Is that the real reason for discomfort among the medical fraternity with informed consumers? Acknowledging of course that no advertisement can truly inform, merely raise interest and direct the consumer to where more complete information can be found. Unlike adverts for 'alternative/herbal/natural' remedies, there is already a quite rigid set of rules for prescription medicines and penalties if those rules are breeched. No such limitations apply to the quality of information to be found on the internet. Is Consumer proposing that the internet should also be censored? Would it be a better approach to take action on any advertising that seems in breech of those guidelines rather than use a scatter gun effect to limit consumer access to freedom of information?
PS: it would also be valuable to see more details of the survey carried out - how participants were selected, how many responders there were to each question.

Colin I.
13 Sep 2019
Protedction or paternalism?

Agree with Maureen's comments. Also the survey itself is implicitly biased. People have a natural and understandable disdain for advertising. If you were to substitute the subject of pharmaceutical companies, for advertisers in general, answers to questions like 'do you agree or disagree that advertisers spend most money on ads for products that make them the most profits' , the answer will be 'of course - what do you expect?'

John C.
11 Aug 2019
Advertisements for prescription medicines

Bruce P.
11 Aug 2019

I strongly support Consumer New Zealand's stand on this matter.
The Pharmaceutical companies should not be able to advertise prescription only medicines. John Chapman

Barry J.
13 Aug 2019
False and partially false claims.

Bogus medicine claims
As equally a problem is the claims of substances making dubious quaisi medical claims about their products research that does not support the claims.
All products should be banned that are claiming health or 'supports' a persons
health. The use of 'supports' has become so common that is starting to become a recommendation. Block that one also.

While I am here, has there been any checks on the tv adverts for these vibrating machine that are being claimed to cure everything they state.

Bruce P.
09 Aug 2019
Advertisements for prescription medicines

I strongly support Consumer New Zealand's stand on this matter.
The Pharmaceutical companies should not be able to advertise prescription only medicines.
Bruce Pitcaithly

Alan M.
08 Aug 2019
More to it than at first impression.

Using the Consumer questions as a guide:
1. Ads do not provide useful info?== That is why Dr is consulted. He/She is the one who prescribes. The reader of the ad does not have that choice.
2. Majority support ban. = double sided option: ban ads and /or consult information service. (perhaps disguised as a DR?)
3. Ad information not helpful. = Another reason for Dr consultation.
4. More medication: no informed choice: Dr pressure to prescribe. = Dr makes choice not ad viewer.
5. Various medical orgs back the call to ban med advertising. = This should have the addendum "to the public" . Drug companies advertise their products direct to the medical field.
6. All the adverts I have seen state "ask Dr if right for you" . ie listen to your Dr.
7. Thus it seems to be that to have holistic care one must trust your Dr with your diet, prescription drugs and supplements (if any)
If one starts down the road of restriction of expression or speech one has to have a very strong reason.
My wife saw an ad for a medication and consulted her Dr . He pointed out her self diagnosis was incorrect and that a topical application was the required treatment. It worked well. All is well.

John
08 Aug 2019
Why just prescription medicines? What about purveyors of snake-oil?

I strongly agree with with your campaign to restrict promotion of prescription medicines directly to the end-user. However, at least these drugs have gone through clinical trials and have proven efficacy and known side-effects before they are licensed for use. And, if we can trust the ethics of medical practitioners, they should, at least, act as a filter prior to them prescribing their use.
The widespread advertising of alternative "health supplements" of unproven efficacy (and, in some cases known to be harmful) is a far bigger problem.

Brenda H.
19 Aug 2019
Publicly Funded

Because the majority of pharmaceutical products are publicly subsidised/funded and as many respondents have pointed out, are only available on prescription. Dietary supplements etc, however etc are over the counter products that are totally paid for by the purchaser.

Peter & Mrs N R.
08 Aug 2019
Advertising of Prescription Medicines

he possibility of side effects, possibility of incorrect assessment of relevance to specific and various medical conditions, that take several years of study for professional medical persons, simp[ly does not make sense to advertise any prescription medication.
Peter Rhodes

Kirsten J C.
07 Aug 2019
There is a reason for advertsing!

Totally support the campaign to ban advertising of medicines on TV. The adverts are never balanced and makes the job of doctors and nurse prescribers more difficult. We have to remember that there is a powerful reason for advertising -
“Advertising and advertisement(s)” are any message, the content of which is controlled directly or indirectly by the advertiser, expressed in any language and communicated in any medium with the intent to influence the choice, opinion or behaviour of those to whom it is addressed.” - Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) updated definition of Advertising and Advertisement

Peter L.
07 Aug 2019
NZ free from commercial medical shepherding

Commercial shepherds, advertisers and lobbyists in the medical industry in New Zealand do not and can not be the best interested of the “patients” as their highest concern, their concern is and can only be for sales.
New Zealand needs to ensure that the patient and Doctor are left to agree free from interference.

Peter & Patricia
07 Aug 2019
ban the pill (advertisements)!

how about getting a FB petition going? Or get Sum of Us on the job? As a kiwi returning home after 30 years in Australia, I was shocked to see this incessant and blatant pill popping pushing agenda by the drug companies here. 10 years on, I still am...

Kevin
07 Aug 2019
Not your job

It is not your job to diagnose your self that is why we have doctors and you are paying them to diagnose whether you need any drugs and they are supposed to know the right one for you - they tend to over prescribe anyway so they don't need any help from you - the ads are not necassary.

LENA M.
07 Aug 2019
Totally agree !!!

Thank you. We do not need drug ads!

Bev D.
07 Aug 2019
Totally agree

Ever since tv ads promoting prescription drugs started I have believed it to be wrong. Hope you are successful in getting them stopped.

Colin I.
07 Aug 2019
Freedom of information

As I have commented before on this subject, I am appalled that an organisation dedicated to empowering the consumer would advocate against allowing companies to advertise their products. If you believe the advertising is misleading that’s a different issue - campaign on that. In the age of the internet consumers will inform themselves whether you think they should or not. And ultimately it is up to the doctor decide whether the drug ‘is right for you’. But I demand the right to be informed and not be patronised by Consumer on this matter. Extremely disappointed in you.

Joanna B.
07 Aug 2019
Regarding Colin I's note to Consumer.

Dear Colin,
I do not think that Consumer is being patronising.

What they are advocating is the right of all to receive relevant information, and to wisely check with their GP regarding what drugs are suitable for their condition rather than trying to pressure the GP into a specific course of action as a result of reading a pharmaceutical advertisement.

Consumer provides unbiased information as far as possible, and give us subscribers a valuable, much appreciated service.

Regards,
Joanna B.

Willie &Chris V.
08 Aug 2019
We disagree

As the statistics and the comments show you have a minority opinion. The rest of the world (except of course the USA) has seen the the danger of this and banned it. Big pharma doesn’t need your help.

D P.
07 Aug 2019
Drug adverts

I strongly support your opposition. I was in the then department's Medicines unit 30 years ago and the criticisms made now are pretty much the same as we had then. I recall pointing out to the advertisers that they had to comply with Medicine regulations that required advertisements to refer to possible side effects and various other details which were not likely to be selling points. One company offering a fairly innocuous medicine achieved compliance by adding a singing commercial to their sound track. I thought the effect was hilarious.

Sadly more serious issues are likely with some of the products advertised especially new ones. David Pickering

Steph L.
07 Aug 2019
Steph

I am a nurse, but my husband is not medically orientated. Time and time again, I hear his comments about medicines being promoted on TV, or even supplements being promoted. He believes them.
It's a simplistic way of looking at very complex compounds.
It wasn't that long ago that Thalidomide was considered safe.

Robyn B.
07 Aug 2019
Can I add my signature

Is there anywhere that people can add their signature to your call for the ban?

Elaine S.
07 Aug 2019
Can I add a signature?

Yes. me too!

Consumer staff
08 Aug 2019
Re: Can I add my signature

Hi Robyn and Elaine.

Thanks very much for your support! We don’t have a petition up at the moment but we’ll keep everyone up-to-date about what they can do to support the campaign.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Garry M.
07 Aug 2019
Prescription medicine advertising.

I think advertising prescription medicines should be banned.

Also the other night I thought I saw an advert for vaping products, I wasn't paying attention and it had gone before I could focus fully on it.
If it was, is that allowed? If it is it shouldn't be in my opinion.

Elaine S.
07 Aug 2019
Vaping ad - reply to Garry M.

Yes, you did see an ad for vaping equipment. Has TV gone utterly insane?? I couldn't believe it.

Consumer staff
08 Aug 2019
Re: Prescription medicine advertising.

Hi Garry.

Not all vaping products are covered by the advertising restrictions in the Smoke-free Environments Act. But amendments are planned to change this. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/vaping-and-smokeless-tobacco-products-be-regulated

Johanne S.
07 Aug 2019
No more drugs adds

Lately there appear to have been an increase in the advertising of prescription drugs on TV, have we lost faith in a doctors ability to prescribe our medication? It must be increasingly difficult for GPS to explain to patients why they are not getting the drugs they have seen advertised, but the ones they recommend. I believe we should put a stop to this irresponsible advertising.

John C.
07 Aug 2019
Proposed ban on TV advertising of prescription medications

Well done Consumer. I fully support what you are doing.

Ray S.
07 Aug 2019
The practise should be banned

The unnecessary marketing expense could be put into reducing prices charged for the products and that of itself may increase [appropriate] use of the products.

The practise also begs the question of whether the products being marketed are as good as what the suppliers tout them to be.

Alison W.
07 Aug 2019
Drug advertising

I agree that this should be banned,

Leila B.
07 Aug 2019
Keep up the great work on this issue!

It is vital that this type of advertising ceases in NZ - consumers get no value from it.

Colin N.
07 Aug 2019
bogus medicine claims

As equally a problem is the claims of substances making dubious quaisi medical claims about their products -e.g. glycosamine, where the double blind research does not support the claims.

Isobel R.
07 Aug 2019
Doctor pressure

Doctors should make the decisions on patients health not pressure from patients because of Drug Companies.

Paul W
07 Aug 2019
I disagree.

Drug companies should still be able to advertize on NZ television but with a rider in the ad like in the US where the risks of taking them are pointed out. Removing this advertizing just means less revenue for the TV networks who will fill the gap with more government social engineering ads.

Fraser B.
07 Aug 2019
The devil is in the details

The drug companies are supposed to put in the side effects, but they are in small print- so small that you cannot read them unless you have a supersized screen, and then you have to do a still-frame as the side effects are gone in seconds. It is a way of brain-washing the consumer into asking for something that can be very dangerous to some people.

Peter K. A. K.
07 Aug 2019
Drug adverts

No one can give an unbiased comment on what they are peddling, so drug companies are no different and it is great to see C is trying to stop these advertisement

Sarah G.
07 Aug 2019
Great idea

I am so pleased to hear that you are taking on this battle. It is a much needed and necessary change.