Dutch & Pharma Ads/Mktg

PRESS RELEASE

HAI Europe opposes Dutch health inspectorate's plan to stop monitoring pharmaceutical advertising and marketing practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Amsterdam 19 June 2002:

At a time when the pharmaceutical industry has never been more powerful and wealthy, HAI Europe today strongly criticised the Inspector General's decision to close its sector that monitors illegal and unethical marketing practices within the drug industry.

"We are extremely concerned about the consequences of this decision," said Margaret Ewen, Co-director of HAI Europe and an expert on drug promotion. "Time and again this sector has had the courage to challenge drug companies' unethical marketing practices aimed at both health professionals and consumers."

HAI Europe believes the need for the sector is growing, not shrinking. In such countries as the United States, the need for monitoring the drug industry is clear. This year alone the US Food and Drug Administration has already sent out 20 warning letters to drug companies about their marketing practices.

The fact that the Inspector General believes that pharmaceutical marketing poses little threat to the public's health is alarming, says HAI Europe. Unethical and inappropriate marketing of medicines means that health professionals and sometimes consumers receive biased information about a drug.

Research shows this can lead to irrational prescribing and use. National health budgets can also be strained when heavily marketed drugs are over-prescribed.

During the past few years, HAI Europe's members and other public health advocates have applauded the Inspectorate's groundbreaking work to bring a number of important test cases about direct-to-consumer advertising to court, despite strong pressure from the industry.

The Dutch government has shown commitment to enforce the current European Union's ban on direct-to-consumer advertising. This appears to have been a principal reason to pursue these cases. Although recent cases have been decided in favour of the industry, the sector's work is crucial to keep any kind of balance in the system.

HAI-Europe believes the Inspector General's proposal to dismantle the pharmaceutical monitoring sector could also have serious consequences for other EU countries.

While the Netherlands has been a leader in enforcing laws against inappropriate marketing of medicines in recent years, this decision will send a message to other Ministries of Health that governments no longer need to make this area a priority.

The network believes that the sector's shutdown will also suggest that the industry can monitor itself. "However, evidence shows that self-regulation simply does not work," said Ewen.

HAI-Europe is the European branch of an international, informal network of consumer, health, development action and other public interest groups involved in health and pharmaceutical issues in 70 countries around the world. HAI actively promotes a more rational use of drugs.

It believes all drugs marketed should meet real medical needs, have therapeutic advantages, be acceptably safe and offer value for money.

For more information, contact:

HAI-Europe Jacob van Lennepkade 334-T 1053 NJ Amsterdam

tel: 31-20 683 3684 fax: 31-20 685 5002 e-mail: info@haiweb.org Website: http://www.haiweb.org

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