Days of DTC could be numbered in New Zealand

DTC advertising of prescription drugs in New Zealand could soon be a thing of the past. New Zealand’s Public Health Association (PHA), a non-party voluntary political association, said that the DTC “causes harm” and is proposing a ban on DTC ads by the end of 2006. PHA director Dr. Gay Keating said problems posed by DTC include patients putting pressure on doctors to prescribe specific medicines and the “normalizing” of the use of medicine to improve health instead of lifestyle changes. “People may end up paying for medicines that they don’t need and that, in the worst case scenario, may actually be harmful to them,” Keating said. “There is no benefit and significant potential harm in allowing direct-to-consumer advertising to continue in this country.” New Zealand’s opposition conservative party, the National Party, said through a spokesman that such a ban would make sponsorship of events by drug companies illegal and would prompt a decline in industry-funded research. New Zealand’s Health Ministry estimated the pharmaceutical industry spent $38 million in 2004 advertising medicines and health products.