Looking for a quick decision on looser European marketing rules? Sorry to disappoint, but lawmakers have postponed E.U. legislation that would have addressed pharma's direct communications with patients. That proviso was part of a comprehensive package of measures that would govern the pharma industry, and "technical changes" were necessary, a spokesman said. Pushing the proposals through now would sacrifice quality for speed, said Guenter Verheugen, the European Commission exec responsible for the pharma sector.
The package includes a proposal for strengthening pharmacovigiliance in the EU, and a "communication"--manifesto?--on the future of the EU market for drugs. But by far the most talked-about provision is the proposal to loosen restrictions on communications with patients. Some worry that this loosening could be a "back door" into DTC marketing. The commission itself says that it wants patients to have access to more "non-promotional" information about drugs, so they can make better decisions. But patient advocacy groups and doctors' organizations, among others, oppose the measure, pointing out that the EC has made no clear distinction between non-promotional info and promotional info.
The delay may not be a short one, either; a European pharma association says that if the EC doesn't quickly come to agreement, the measures could languish until after next June's parliamentarly elections.