Doctors in New Zealand—the only non-U.S. country that allows DTC advertising—call for bans

New Zealand physician groups in favor of banning DTC ads hope new healthcare regulations may present an opportunity to do that.

Just like the United States does, New Zealand allows DTC pharma advertising. And just like in the U.S., many doctors there would like to ban the ads.

Both the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the New Zealand Medical Association have come out recently with statements against DTC ads, as reported in New Zealand Doctor magazine. Both groups have called for a total ban on DTC ads, much the way the American Medical Association and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists did in the U.S.

The NZMA, in fact, has been advocating for a ban since 2006. But some anti-DTC advocates in New Zealand think they might have a new opportunity in 2017. DTC pharma ads are allowed in New Zealand under the Medicines Act of 1981, but that law is facing replacement legislation under an in-the-works Therapeutic Products Bill. The bill is comprehensive regulatory legislation that will regulate therapeutic products in New Zealand going forward, and the New Zealand government is currently working on it. A draft is expected this year.

The way some people see it, the opportunity for a DTC ban is in that new legislation. The previous  unsuccessful Therapeutics Product Bill, introduced more than 10 years ago, included the ban of direct-to-consumer advertising—although marketing to physicians would have still been allowed. However, that original bill never made it to a legislative vote. And so far, no one is confident the current bill in progress has any similar provisions.

The Ministry of Health, which is favor of keeping DTC advertising according to New Zealand Doctor, told the publication last month that regulation is preferable to a ban on drug ads, and added that the new Therapeutics bill instead “should strengthen existing regulation.”