Majority of Kiwis favour ban on adverts for prescription meds, survey shows

The majority of New Zealanders want advertisements for prescription medicines to be banned, according to a newly released Consumer NZ survey.

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The survey found 57 per cent of Kiwis supported a ban on prescription medicine advertising while only 15 per cent thought drug advertising should continue.

The 57 per cent who supported a ban were in favour of an independent health information service that could provide advice about treatment options.

“We’ve been calling for these ads to be banned because they don’t provide consumers with good information and they increase the risk of medicines being overprescribed,” Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said.

One in eight consumers said an advertisement had prompted them to ask for a prescription medicine from their doctor or other health professional.

Of those, 45 per cent got the prescription they requested, while 21 per cent received a prescription for another medicine.

New Zealand and the US are the only countries in the developed world where direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines is allowed, Ms Wilson said.

The Ministry of Health has been consulting on whether the law should continue to allow medicine advertising as part of a review of the Medicines Act.

Consumer NZ would be providing the results of its research to the ministry and Minister of Health David Clark.

'Clear mandate' to ban prescription medicine ads - public health experts

New Zealand public health experts say the latest Consumer NZ poll demonstrates there's a clear mandate to ban direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines in New Zealand.  

Support for a ban has strengthened considerably since the same question was posed in a Colmar Brunton survey nearly two decades ago, when there was also a majority in favour of a ban, said professor Les Toop, GP and University of Otago, Christchurch researcher. 

He was speaking on behalf of all four New Zealand Departments of General Practice/Primary Care at the University of Otago and University of Auckland.

In the latest poll, although some were undecided, less than one in six adults now think such advertising should continue, Dr Toop said. 

"Decisions on medication that can influence long-term future health for better or for worse should be based on an understanding of evidence, realistic expectations and advice tempered with experience, not advertising spin," he said.   

"The misleading method of marketing our most powerful and potentially most harmful medicines should be banned.

"We urge all political parties to listen to the growing public opposition to these ads, to the consistent expert opinion on their harmful effects, and to familiarise themselves with the large body of international evidence and the bans on DTCA [direct-to-consumer advertising] elsewhere."