On Friday, April 17, a Pfizer advertisement told readers of the West Australian newspaper: “If you are taking multiple medicines for conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, there are combination options that can reduce the number of tablets you take. And the amount of money you pay.”
The advertisement had a section for readers to clip and take to their doctors “to start the discussion” about whether they should be taking a combination heart pill. The Pfizer logo features prominently on this notice, together with what looks like the campaign’s theme “take one”.
Michele Kosky, executive director of the Health Consumers’ Council, asked the TGA and Medicines Australia to investigate whether the advertisement breaches the ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines (Croakey has previously published her letter here.)
She was recently advised that the Medicines Australia code of conduct committee did not consider the advertisement to be promoting a particular product and therefore was not in breach of the code. Interestingly, this was not a unanimous decision – so Croakey shall be interested to hear what the TGA decides.
Kosky was pleased by the speed of the Medicines Australia decision, if not its content. “We were very surprised at the outcome when the connection between manufacturer and product seemed so obvious to the common reader,” she wrote to Croakey. “Would have to say that Medicines Australia complaints process very timely and thorough even if the outcome idefensible in our view. Yet to hear from the TGA!!!”
Croakey will keep you posted on this one. In the meantime, we’re happy to pass on copies of the Medicines Australia decision to interested parties. Just drop us a line.
While some might see the Pfizer logo and think, “Oh, Pfizer must make a wonderdrug combination pill” (How nice. I wonder if I can get some).
Others are just as likley to think, “Oh, Pfizer must make a wonderdrug combination pill” (what bastards, they just want me to buy their drugs).
Kosky’s own reaction shows that some people are going to have the latter reaction.
The ad doesn’t mention the particular product, so it’s still up to the patient to go and have a conversation with their doctor – which is a good thing to encourage, regardless of any potential ulterior motive on Pfizer’s behalf.
Without placing their logo on this ad, they’d be in hot water for conducting some sort of covert viral campaign.
Should we ban pharmacos from conducting disease and/or treatment awareness campaigns that they have related therapeutic goods for? I don’t think anyone would really “win” from such a ban.