Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Uneven enforcement of ban on drug ads creates double standard: medical journal

From the Canadian Press:
Health Canada's uneven enforcement of its ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising may strengthen the hand of media companies fighting in court to have it overturned, the Canadian Medical Association Journal said Monday in an editorial.

Signed by editor-in-chief Dr. Paul Hebert, the editorial said the current situation amounts to a double standard, with Canadian media outlets barred from selling drug ads, even though Canadians watching American TV networks or reading American magazines are being "bombarded" with drug advertisements.

"We get contamination from the U.S. We get direct-to-consumer advertising, because we get it from them," Hebert said in an interview.

"So I guess my question is: Why is that allowed to happen?"

CanWest Global Communications is challenging the direct-to-consumer advertising ban, saying it violates the right to free expression enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Health Canada spokesman Alastair Sinclair said the federal department is defending the case and preparing its response, but noted it would "not be appropriate for Health Canada to comment further on a matter before the courts."

The United States and New Zealand are the only jurisdictions in the world that allow drug companies to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. Where they are permitted to advertise, drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get consumers to ask for their brand of cholesterol-lowering medication or their version of acid reflux pills. ...more

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