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EC plans to provide more information on medicines to the public could reduce restrictions on the marketing of prescription drugs to patients.

European Commission plans to provide more information on medicines to the public could reduce restrictions on the marketing of prescription drugs to patients.

The initiative to provide better information to patients on pharmaceutical products is under the spotlight after enterprise and industry director-general G¸nter Verheugen said he planned to push ahead with full implementation of the G10 report on the pharmaceutical sector.

In a prepared speech delivered on the 10th anniversary of the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) in London, Verheugen said the Commission was preparing a ìpartnership on information to patients involving all stakeholdersî.

ìAnother aspect of this initiative to increase the availability of quality information on medicines is the setting up of a public database on medicines,î he said.

Speaking in Brussels last week, new European health commissioner, Markos Kyprianou said the EU needed to adjust its position on the provision of health information ìbecause patients deserve to be made more awareî.

He added that drug manufacturers could become one source of information on products but that this would have to be regulated within the context of the G10 framework.

ìHowever, we may encounter increased resistance from some Member States and empowered patients may trigger increased health spending,î he commented.

European pharmaceutical industry association EFPIA gave a cautious welcome to Verheugen's announcement, saying it alluded to previous recommendations within the G10 framework to set up a private-public partnership to define what constituted drug advertising and what constituted drug information.

ìAt the moment we are waiting for the Commission to be more specific about what it has in mind,î said EFPIA spokesman Christophe de Callataˇ.

However, other sources within the industry dismissed the notion that the move could pave the way for US-style direct-to-consumer advertising in Europe, describing it as a small step in the right direction.

European firms have often cited the irony of local legislation banning them from any communications to patients which could be deemed as marketing, when all kinds of information, both reliable and unreliable, is available on the internet.

Of more pressing concern to European drug manufacturers is the perceived need for a more attractive commercial environment in Europe.

ìWe need a fair and stable marketplace for medicinal products, which rewards innovation - this remains the main challenge,î commented EFPIA director general Brian Ager.

30th September 2008

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