Europe eyes pharma-backed TV channel as industry vies to lift DTC ban

Four pharmaceutical companies are behind a new proposal to launch a dedicated TV information channel for European patients, The Guardian reports. The European Patient Information Channel—backed by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis and Procter & Gamble—would be an interactive digital channel with health news and features. The European commission is considering it as the group entertains heavy lobbying from industry for an end to regulations barring DTC advertising. The industry has been lobbying in Europe to be allowed direct access to patients, arguing that lifting restrictions would help its competitiveness. Industry also has said that companies may relocate to the US, where advertising to consumers is legal. The commission’s trade arm, DG Enterprise, and not health, DG Sanco, is leading the proposed change in the DTC rules. Several influential patient groups, funded by drug companies, favor a change; consumer organizations oppose it, warning that the companies’ profit motives would encourage them to minimize risks. The patient-information channel could be available on the Web as well as on TV and offer “on demand” information about drugs “to enable patients and citizens to make better decisions,” J&J’s Scott Ratzan told The Guardian. A board of medical, pharmaceutical and patient representatives would hear complaints concerning the self-regulated channel. The four companies developed a 10-minute pilot with sample programming. According to the article, viewers could read manufacturers' information about branded drugs by using a remote control to click on treatment options.