GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have voiced their strong opposition of adopting US-style direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs as a meant to speeding up the uptake of medicines in the UK, according to Industry reports.

The Financial Times notes that executives from the two firms giving evidence to the UK Government’s health select committee, which is investigating the pharmaceutical industry’s influence [[21/06/04b]], said that they did not believe that such advertising would be the right way forward for the UK, even though the uptake of medicines here is among the slowest in western Europe.

Although there is concern about the speed of drug uptake in this market, the article claims that DTC advertising is not the solution, and would not be appropriate for a UK audience. “The public doesn’t want it and we are not pressing for it,” Eddie Gray, UK general manager for GSK, is quoted as saying.

- Meanwhile, UK Industry body, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, says it has made a number of key proposals to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the pharmaceutical industry’s relationships with the NHS.

Amongst its recommendations were proposals to publish all trials involving the NHS – companies recently agreed to publish all Industry-sponsored trials on a global register [[07/01/05a]] – and improved patient safety monitoring, patient representation and information. In a statement, ABPI director general, Dr Richard Barker, said: “The pharmaceutical industry is already extremely highly regulated and committed to the highest standards of ethical and business conduct. But we recognise that an issue of trust has arisen, and greater trust needs to be built on increased transparency.” He added: “We believe these recommendations are practicable and that they go a long way towards addressing this issue.”

The ABPI document also examines several areas previously raised during the inquiry – namely disease mongering, ghost writing, links with patient groups and relationships with doctors. The issue of ghost writing came to the fore during an October select committee hearing, when witnesses claimed that papers published in medical journals were often actually written by pharmaceutical companies themselves, while dangerous side effects were often played down [[18/10/04c]]. The ABPI said that the Industry does “not support the presentation of reports that do not reflect the considered views of the stated authors. No serious investigator would risk their reputation by simply adding their name to a paper.”

In addition, the ABPI said that the subject of disease mongering – or preventative care, such as the treatment of osteoporosis, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – is fully in line with NHS strategy, adding that it works openly with patient groups to raise the awareness of medical conditions. Furthermore, the association says it is currently reviewing its code of practice, which covers the topic of the Industry’s relationship with doctors. However, it notes that gifts to healthcare professionals must be relevant to their work and never above the value of £6, and that hospitality must be secondary to the purpose of any meeting and not out of proportion.