Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines (DTCA)
Women's Health Action is a public interest women's health and consumer advocacy group. We have a long history of activism around consumer information, pharmaceutical company activity and advertising issues.
Women's Health Action is opposed to the medicalisation of well populations and to the Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines.
- Prescription Pills - WHW June 2006
- Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines in NZ WHA Submission on MoH Discussion Paper 2006 - April 2006
- Dreaming up diseases for women: PMS, Menopause, Osteoporosis and Female Sexual Dysfunction - WHW September 2005
- More Vioxx dramas - WHW June 2006
- Vioxx: A case against Direct-To-Consumer (DTCA) advertising - WHU Oct. 2004
- Doctors on the warpath about DTC advertising - WHW April 2003
- Impotence drug marketing doesn't stand up - WHW April 2003
- New Zealand Consumers Views on Information on Prescription Medicines - WHW April 2003
- Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Pharmaceuticals: A Consumer Perspective from New Zealand, - S.Coney Journal of Public Policy and Marketing 2002
- Softly, softly on drug ads to the public (outcome of submission process on DTCA by MOH)- WHW Sept 2001
- Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines in New Zealand, WHA submission to MoH- 2001
- Whither direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising? -WHW March 2001
- DTC advertising unwelcome - Bridget Vercoe, WHU April 2000
- WHA complaint about Depo-Provera advertisement - decision of Advertising Standards Complaints Board 1999
- Taking the hype out of the health market (editorial on DTCA and submissions on review of the Medicines Act)- WHW Dec 1994
- Review of the Medicines Act (report on review of the Medicines Act, covering product licensing, DTCA, consumer representation) - WHW June 1994
- Useful References and websites - Updated 2006
- Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in New Zealand: FOR HEALTH OR FOR PROFIT? Report to the Minister of Health February 2003
June 2006 Women's Health Watch
Prescription medicines are a hot topic. The impetus for the debate is the proposed trans Tasman Agency to regulate therapeutic products which has been under discussion and development since 2001. As the Agency comes closer to reality, the debate is heating up. Jo Fitzpatrick reports on topical aspects of recent debates drawing on the Inaugural Diseasemongering Conference in Australia; the Ministry of Health consultation on direct to consumer drug advertising, an NGO Advertising symposium and the recent New Zealand Future Medicines Policy Summit. The trans Tasman agency project is charged with looking at the establishment of a joint agency to regulate therapeutic products (medicines, medical devices and complementary medicines/dietary supplements that have therapeutic uses) in New Zealand and Australia.
Discussions have been ongoing with a view to 'harmonisation' which would put a regulatory framework in place for these products to serve both countries. The joint agency would replace the TGA in Australia and Medsafe in New Zealand. Tentatively named ANZTPA (Australia New Zealand Therapeutics products Agency), the Agency was due to come into operation in July this year but delays are probable... Read More
Direct-To-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines in New Zealand. Submission on Ministry of Health Discussion Paper
April 2006 Women's Health Action Submission
Women's Health Action is opposed to the medicalisation of well populations. We also have a strong interest in the safety of products as our organisation began when we gave assistance to women who were harmed by the Dalkon Shield Intrauterine device.Our mission statement is 'Empowered well women in a healthy world.
We find ourselves weary of yet another consultation on DTCA. We draw your attention to our previous extensive submissions and can supply you with copies of these if you have misplaced them. As far as we are able to ascertain, this consultation raises no substantive new issues and we are somewhat baffled as to why we must repeat our arguments again.
We note that one of the recommendations from the last consultation was for the next one to raise this debate more generally in the public arena. We had hoped, in light of this, that a further consultation, should one have been deemed necessary, would occur through the Select Committee process. We record our disappointment at the fact that this has not happened and that we, once again, have a relatively low profile, poorly publicised Ministry consultation.
For this submission, we have tried to emphasise new evidence which has emerged since the last consultation....Read More (pdf)
BMJ on Mar 31 2006
Extreme laziness may have a medical basis, say a group of Australian scientists in this week's BMJ, as they describe a new condition called motivational deficiency disorder (MoDeD).
A Google search in March 2006 found no entries for Motivational Deficiency Disorder. After the April Fools day release the Google hits on 'motivational deficiency disorder' were Friday 9; Sunday 101; Monday 245; Wednesday 452. Two months later on June 2nd there were 93,600 Read More
September 2005 Women's Health Watch
Leading health writer and reporter Ray Moynihan paid a brief visit to New Zealand in July. At a seminar on 'Evidence and Consumer Information' organised by the New Zealand Guidelines Group he spoke about the increasing medicalisation of ordinary life processes and described how drug companies turn us all into patients. Lynda Williams reports
It's tough being a woman these days, especially if you listen to what the pharmaceutical industry would have you believe about how our lives are either about to be ruined or are already ruined by premenstrual tension, menopause, osteoporosis and more recently female sexual dysfunction. Over the past two or three decades normal life processes have come under increasing scrutiny from those who manufacture, market and sell drugs. If the stresses and strains of everyday life can be promoted as symptoms of more serious medical conditions and a pill to fix it is available, then the drug companies have a formula for ensuring they laugh all the way to the bank. New conditions, once they have been invented, identified, defined and described, can then be extended and expanded to include increasing numbers of everyday people... Read More
June 2006 Women's Health Watch
Merck's arthritis drug Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004 after it was found to increase risk of heart problems.
One of Merck's defenses has been that Vioxx only causes heart disease after long term use. In 2005 they released a study in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that it caused heart problems only after 18 months. However the company has just acknowledged that the statistical analysis does not support this claim. The company now admits that there is a seven percent chance that Vioxx has an equally high risk of causing heart problems before 18 months of use. Although a seven percent chance may sound small this is a significant turn around from the 'almost certain' stance Merck claimed before. Merck faces at least 11,500 lawsuits from patients who used Vioxx and say it caused their heart attacks or strokes. Five cases have gone to court so far in the States and Merck was found guilty in three of them.
New York Times 31 May 2006
October 2004 Women's Health Watch
Vioxx ' the arthritis pain-relieving drug withdrawn from the market ' was heavily marketed in New Zealand for at least three years of its four years here. During 2001, figures published in the National Business Review indicate Vioxx was among the top 20 television advertising spenders... Read More
April 2003 Women's Health Watch
Sandra Coney reports on a recent initiative from the country's medical schools to try to get a ban on DTC advertising of prescription medicines.
Four professors of general practice, supported by public health and consumer groups, have petitioned Minister of Health Annette King to ban direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines and establish independent medicines and health information services. Professor Les Toop, Professor Tony Dowell, Professor Murray Tilyard and Associate Professor Bruce Arroll of the Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland Schools of Medicine delivered Mrs King a meaty 100-page report, Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in New Zealand: For Health or Profit? which contains the results of surveys of consumers and general practitioners in what is seen as a last ditch attempt to stop DTCA in New Zealand.
Groups who endorsed the report included the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, Public Health Association, IPA Council of New Zealand, Grey Power and Women's Health Action. Their initiative was quickly joined by a distinguished list of university public health doctors including Dr Ann Richardson (Christchurch), Professor Rod Jackson (Auckland), Professor David Skegg (Dunedin) and Professor Alistair Woodward (Wellington).
Mrs King has yet to reply formally, but has said she would need to be convinced that this is what doctors want before she acted. On coming into office, Mrs King was outspoken in her opposition to DTCA, but in the intervening years she has modified her stand. Government officials appear not to support a ban, which is seen as providing revenue for advertising and broadcasting industries. The report should have given Mrs King the ammunition she needs... Read More
April 2003 Women's Health Watch
Anyone watching the America's Cup racing couldn't have failed to notice the emergence of a new sponsor in 2003. Standing by the popular watering hole The Loaded Hog, it was possible to see seven different forms of advertising for Cialis, an impotence drug, a graphic illustration of the permissiveness surrounding direct-to-consumer prescription medicine advertising in New Zealand....
The campaign showed the fallacy of the argument that DTCA provides consumers with important health information. What was promoted was a brand name. Basic information was missing or was not provided even when directly requested... Read More
April 2003 Women's Health Watch
A survey of consumers found that GPs, pharmacists and hospital doctors were the most trusted sources of information about medicines, with a high degree of mistrust of the motives of pharmaceutical companies and their information.Colmar Brunton Poll, January 2003 Read Summary
Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Pharmaceuticals: A Consumer Perspective from New Zealand
2002 V.21(2)Fall 2002, 213D223 Journal of Public Policy and Marketing
New Zealand is one of only two countries in the world that allows direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. Such advertising has increased dramatically since the mid-1990s, and a wide range of promotional activities currently takes place. Compliance with the legislation occurs through an industry body that hears complaints over alleged breaches. The weakness of the organized consumer sector in the country means there is a paucity of complaints, yet a self-regulating system is reliant on complaints for compliance. The author describes the unsatisfactory experience of taking a complaint and examines the argument that DTC advertising provides consumers with important information. The author measures DTC advertising against criteria for quality health information and finds it wanting.... Read More
September 2001 Women's Health Watch
Sandra Coney looks at the very tame outcome of the Ministry of Health's consultation on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.
Minister of Health, Annette King, has decided not to ban director-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs. New Zealand is one of only two countries (USA is the other) that allows DTCA and local media have been flooded with ads in the last couple of years. As well, advertising has appeared on buses, cars, and billboards and in sponsorship of high profile events. The Minister's failure to impose a ban was signalled in the Ministry's discussion paper last year. At that time, it was clear that the Ministry didn't want a ban because of the regulatory cost and a lingering market approach to health.... Read More
Women's Health Action Trust (WHAT) is a public interest women's health and consumer advocacy group, formed in 1984. We have a long history of activism around the activities of pharmaceutical companies. We have opposed medicalisation of well populations. We have a strong interest in the safety of products and in evidence-based approaches to health care. We have had a close involvement in the development of the Code of Health Consumers' Rights and its application...We find the arguments in favour of DTCA self-serving and lacking in substance. We provide the following arguments against DTCA..... Read More
March 2001 Women's Health Watch
Sandra Coney reports on recent Government moves
New Zealand has the distinction of being one of only two countries in the world which allows direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals. Minister of Health, Annette King, is not a fan of DTC advertising and over the past three months the Ministry of Health has been consulting on a discussion paper on the future of DTC advertising. This will influence the contents of the planned Healthcare and Therapeutics Products Bill... Read More
April 2000 Women's Health Update
The new Health Minister, Annette King, has promised a review of direct to consumer (DTC) advertising, following numerous complaints from the public and community organisations. Bridget Vercoe reports.
Eating Difficulties Education Network (EDEN) successfully stopped the Xenical advertisement entitled, 'If you'd kill for a better figure, we've got a plan to dispose of the body'.
A complaint by Women's Health Action was upheld at the end of last year about an advertisement for the contraceptive injection, Depo-Provera, published in New Zealand Woman s Weekly, New Idea and She magazines. WHA's executive director Sandra Coney says the full-page advertisement contained virtually no information. Instead readers were directed to information elsewhere in the magazine. But no page number was given for where to find it and the language used was highly medical. This was in breach of the new Advertising Standard Authority's Code for Therapeutic Advertising.... Read More
1999 Decision of Advertising Standards Complaints Board
Complaint: A full page advertisement for Depo-Provera, a Contraceptive Injection, was published in several women's magazines, including "NZ Woman's Weekly", "New Idea" and "She". There was a note at the bottom of the advertisement that referred the reader to Consumer Information elsewhere in the publication.
Decision: Complaint Upheld Read full decision
December 1994 Women's Health Watch
Over 1994 Women's Health Action has lobbied on the issue of entrepreneurialism in health care. We have been particularly concerned at the growing signs of a health 'market' where commercial interests sell health products - tests and drugs - directly to the public. This has been occurring even where there is dubious or no evidence of benefit from the product.
The results of our work have not been reassuring. The Commerce Commission has rejected one complaint taken under the Fair Trading Act. The reasons given can be summed up as 'clinical freedom' - differences of opinion among doctors - and the criminal standard of proof which is applied by the Commission. We also approached the Medical Council but as the letter in this issue explains, while the council supported our concerns, it stated that it does not have a particular oversight in this area.... Read More
June 1994 Women's Health Watch
The government has released a discussion paper as part of a review of the medicines legislation. The review has come about because of the problems highlighted with IUDs breast implants and heart valves. Devices such as these have been outside existing medicines regulation. This meant that faulty and dangerous devices could enter the market without any scrutiny about their safety and effectiveness.
The new legislation would cover devices in much the same way as drugs. but other aspects are also covered... Read More
Useful References and websites - Updated 2006
Direct to Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs in New Zealand: FOR HEALTH OR FOR PROFIT? Report to the Minister of Health February 2003