Access to quality healthcare is a major issue for New Zealanders. We regularly hear demands for funding of innovative new drugs. Communities are demanding that access to treatment not determined by where you live. At the same time mental health services need more funding and we know almost all our DHBs are struggling to cope financially.
Rightly you would expect in these circumstances that Consumer NZ (Consumer) would be an important voice for the public on these important issues. Instead, judging by their latest media release, they seem more concerned with advertising of medicines and are demanding new limits be placed on medical information reaching the public.
Using some poor research methodology, they argue medicines shouldn't be advertised. That the public shouldn't be told, for example, that a vaccine is now available to prevent the seriously debilitating effects of that condition.
Consumer repeats the incorrect claim that medicines are only advertised in NZ and the USA.
They also ignore the fact that medicines can only be advertised if that medicine is approved as safe by Medsafe, the Government Regulator.
Consumer fails to acknowledge that, unlike other countries, all medicine advertising in New Zealand must be independently pre-vetted1 to comply with our countries strict advertising codes.
Advertising of medicines makes the public better aware that treatment options exist. It encourages people to seek proper medical advice, from a professional, their doctor or pharmacist.
Kiwis want to retain medicine advertising. In the same survey2 of more than one thousand New Zealanders interviewed earlier this year, more than three quarters of respondents said they would be concerned, and over half would be extremely concerned if advertising of both prescription and non-prescription medicines were banned.
And we know, in this digital age, people turn to “Dr Google” for advice. The same study2 found
that Google or general internet searches and friends and family were much greater informers
than television or magazines. If one adds in those who searched specific digital health
websites, or who took advantage of Healthline phone services, or Health Navigator websites,
this disparity widens.
Unfortunately, these sources provide an unregulated mix of health advice, both bad and good.
The ban on advertising Consumer calls for wouldn’t change low quality medical information being easily accessed online. In helping New Zealanders get better health outcomes, advertising of medicines plays an important part in our nation's health. It is responsibly co-regulated. Calls for it to be banned are misplaced and don’t serve our community well.
1. Therapeutic Advertising Pre-vetting Service (TAPS), administered by ANZA
2. NZSMI Survey on Direct to Consumer Advertising – Conducted by Perceptive Research February 2019