Drug advertising ban `patronising'

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THE BAN on advertising prescription drugs to the public is patronising, unhelpful and interferes with patients' abilities to look after their own health, a report says today.

In the US more than $1bn a year is spent on pharmaceutical advertising to the public, yet in Britain prescription drugs may only be advertised to doctors. Fears that advertising would mislead the public, increase demands on doctors to prescribe and put pressure on health service budgets are behind the ban, which is Europe-wide. But the report by the Institute of Economic Affairs says these reasons are outdated and patients increasingly want information on which they can make their own decisions.

David Green, the director of the institute, says the real reason for the advertising ban is to curb drug spending and "restrict access to information in the hope that badly informed patients would more willingly accept their lot".