This month, our columnist Nathan Jessop discusses a topic that remains highly debated in Europe; direct to consumer (DTC)
advertising. This is a really interesting subject and, although there are many opponents to DTC in Europe, including many
members of the pharmaceutical industry, it is still being discussed in European parliament. The primary reason for this is
the pressure to improve access of information to patients, largely driven by the Internet phenomenon and patients' thirst
for information and the need for a say in their treatment. This is of course no bad thing. I think it's great that patients
are now able to take a more active role in their own healthcare and in learning about their conditions and treatments. But,
there is an ongoing problem; the Internet is littered with information from unregulated sources and patients are largely unaware
of the lack of reliability of some of those sources. This is indeed a problem and one that hasn't gone unnoticed by the regulators
or industry but this isn't something that can be solved easily and will remain an issue for as long as there is free access
to information; i.e. forever.
The question that Nathan asks this month, however, is whether pharmaceutical companies should actually be advertising directly
to consumers about their brands or disease types. In other words, should we be following the American way? Our columnist provides
a balanced argument but is largely not in favour of this movement for reasons of bias and lack of impartiality. I have to
say, I fully agree with him. Perhaps there is a way that the pharmaceutical industry can get the right message across to patients
because I am fully in favour of patient education; however, it's doing it the right way and I don't believe that blatant advertising
is the way to go. Social media is one of the tools that is currently under review by several big pharma manufacturers, so
too are patient group websites, online educational forums, etc. Our industry is still testing the water, quite rightly, with
trepidation, but hopefully companies will hit on the right methods of communicating with patients that are hungry for information.
My guess is that this will involve a holistic approach, where a number of online tools are used to deliver the right information.
Question is, will patients be able to decipher the reliable sources from the unreliable ones? We've been chatting about this
on our LinkedIn group (
http://www.pharmtech.com.linkedin) already, why not join the discussion and let us know what you think?
For now, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and all of the very best for a successful 2011.
Fedra Pavlou, Editor-in-Chief