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ABPI denies Guardian advertising claims

The ABPI and Pfizer have refuted reports in The Guardian that the pharmaceutical industry is gunning for companies to advertise prescription products in Europe

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and Pfizer have refuted reports in The Guardian that the pharmaceutical industry is gunning for companies to advertise prescription products in Europe.

The Guardian had reported that drugs firms and patients groups were fighting to overturn an advertising ban in an article dated May 21 2007.

"In the article it seems they have deleted the word 'information' and replaced it with the word 'advertising'. The industry in Europe is not interested in advertising branded prescription products," says Richard Ley, head of media relations at the ABPI.

"We are interested in widening the information available to patients so they can get data straight from the horse's mouth," continues Ley.

The APBI will get involved in discussions, most likely through EFPIA, with the European Commission, which is currently evaluating proposals to allow pharma companies access to patients, with the input of stakeholders involved in healthcare provision.

"We have always been very clear that we do feel restrictions throughout Europe and UK are paternalistic, old fashioned and out of date. Those days when people took pills without questions are past and patients are well informed. They get information, mainly from the internet and we should be allowed to provide information too - we are not asking for anything special," says Ley.

In a separate article, The Guardian claimed that a "shopping channel run by drugs firms" was "coming soon". The article continued: "Four companies, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novartis and Procter & Gamble, are behind the pilot they are offering to the European commission as a way to give more patients information."

"This is very far from the mark," says Ley. "Four companies have produced a pilot but it is not coming soon. The pilot is an idea of how it might look and how it could be done, it is not a definite proposal and it is not an industry initiative. It merely gives people a flavour of how it might look."

Pfizer has also denied The Guardian's claims. "Contrary to the article, a TV channel does not exist nor is it in development. The TV channel is currently just an idea, but we believe it has the potential to help EU citizens make better health decisions. The industry has made clear it is not seeking to have the ban on advertising in Europe lifted - this is about enabling more patients to access high quality health information from reliable sources," says a Pfizer spokesperson.

14th June 2007

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