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Sociol Health Illn. 2013 Jun;35(5):761-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2012.01528.x. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Regulating drug information in Europe: a pyrrhic victory for pharmaceutical industry critics?

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Centre for Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden.


Informed by recent sociological debates on pharmaceuticalisation, this article examines the evolution of the current EU legal proposal on prescription drug information to patients, as well as the surrounding controversies. In 2008 the European Commission proposed the relaxation of the existing rules governing drug information provision to patients by the pharmaceutical industry. Critics of the industry's influence over health policy and markets, including consumer organisations, industry-independent patient organisations and health professionals, rejected the Commission's proposal, claiming that the industry cannot be considered a reliable source of patient information due to inherent financial conflicts of interest. Since these critics were at least partially successful in rallying opinion against the Commission proposal, they functioned as countervailing forces to promotion-driven pharmaceuticalisation. Even so, as a watered-down version of the proposal moved through the European Parliament it was further modified to ultimately resemble the Swedish system that was held up as a high-quality example of industry-based information provision. Yet this article contends that the Swedish system displays evidence of corporate bias. Significantly, basing EU policy on a drug information system not resistant to corporate bias risks creating practices that violate the legally mandated mission of EU drug regulation, which is to 'promote and protect public health'.

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