Advertising restrcitions on some over the counter medicines likely to be lifted

Regulations to remove the current ban on advertising certain over the counter (OTC) medicines to the public were laid in Parliament today. Removing these restrictions on promoting non-prescription medicines to the public has the potential to bring real public health benefits by giving more power and information direct to patients.

There will be no change to the strict ban on advertising prescription only medicines direct to consumers.

There are a number of diseases for which OTC medicines may not be advertised to the public. Following widespread consultation, advertising restrictions will be removed for conditions such as rheumatic and serious skin, eye or ear disorders.

The Government intends to increase the number and range of medicines over the counter as quickly as possible, where it is safe to do so.

One example of the benefits of this change is the recent announcement that Ministers have accepted the advice of the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) that simvastatin 10mg (Zocor Heart Pro) could be safely sold through pharmacies to reduce the risk of a first major coronary event in people likely to be at a moderate risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). The change will allow promotion of the product to the public to help inform who might benefit from use of the medicine.

The MHRA has worked closely with health professionals, advertising regulators, patient groups and industry to develop guidance for advertisers on medicines in all the deregulated categories. This will be published by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) before the change comes into force.

EU legislation currently prohibits advertisements to the public for chronic insomnia, diabetes and other metabolic diseases, malignant diseases, serious infectious diseases including HIV-related diseases and tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. These restrictions will remain for the present but are likely to be removed when new EU legislation comes into force in 2005.

Further information on the PAGB guidance is available at www.pagb.org.uk.

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