It is only in New Zealand and the United States of America that permit pharmaceutical companies to advertise their drugs and vaccines. Elsewhere, including Europe, they are banned from any kind of direct-to-consumer advertisements.
Yet the ability of pharmaceutical companies to advertise in Europe does not worry them. Drug companies are not allowed to advertise prescription-only drugs, but they can advertise ‘over-the-counter’ drugs, and they do so - ad infinitum.
BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE. PRESCRIPTION-ONLY DRUGS ARE ALSO ADVERTISED IN THE EUROPE AND THE UK, AND AS I WILL OUTLINE HERE THIS BAN HAS SOME DISTINCT BENEFITS FOR THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY.
Let me outline how this works.
- A drug company wants to get a message to the public about a drug, or a vaccine, they are keen to promote.
- They write a press release, and give it to all the media outlets (especially those media outlets who benefit from, rely upon, the advertising of over-the-counter drugs.
- The press release is published by the grateful, dependent and compliant media outlets. The will publish the press release - without change, without comment, without question, and without further investigation.
- At the same time, the drug companies will put the media in touch with doctors and specialists from the NHS (note, not from the drugs company, this would be advertising) who have been ‘primed’ to speak on the subject. They are interviewed, often at length.
- The drug companies will also suggest that the media speaks to a patient support group, or a health charity (especially those who receive a generous charitable donation from the company), and to individuals who have experienced the disease, and/or the drug. So these people are also interviewed by the media, often at length.
- So we have a lengthy article, or 5–10 minutes of radio or television news, talking about the drug or vaccine and its benefits. The drug company appears to be entirely absent, uninvolved. So it's not really advertising.
- At no time will the media mention, or question, or investigate any adverse drug reactions or serious side effects - even if these are already well known.
When we see an advert for a Ford car we know it is advertised by the Ford Motor Company. And we know it’s an advertisement. And we know that what we are being told is not impartial information. We can take it, or leave it.
When we see a subliminal advert from a pharmaceutical company we don’t realise that the information is coming from a drugs company. We think it is coming from independent doctors and specialists, from patients. It is a piece of “good news” about which we can rejoice! It is impartial. It is not really advertising.
Moreover, advertising in the mainstream media usually costs the advertisers a significant amount of money. For drug companies this subliminal advertising is entirely free. They produce a press release, offer up spokespeople who will corroborate the message, and that is their only cost.
So I suspect that pharmaceutical drug companies would not want the adverting ban in Europe to be rescinded. It would cost them a lot of money - for less effective advertising.