HC Deb 30 April 1984 vol 59 cc50-1W

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will give the number of complaints made, in the last year for which figures are available, about failure to observe the regulations on drug advertising, categorising them according to the nature of the complaint, the source and the subsequent action taken; and if he will distinguish between complaints made about advertisements for old and new drugs.

Mr.Kenneth Clarke

The Department dealt with 41 complaints about medicines advertisements during 1983 of which five concerned new products, ie products licensed within a year of the complaint. In 25 cases the Department contacted the company concerned asking for changes to the advertising material. Six complaints were referred to the trade association's code of practice committee for action. In all cases where changes were requested companies complied. The remaining 10 complaints were not substantiated.

Other details requested are set out in the following table:

Number of complaints
Nature of complaint
Inappropriate method of promotion 16
False or misleading promotional claims 15
Miscellaneous 10
Source of complaint
Medical Profession 7
Pharmaceutical companies 8
Members of the public 2
Members of Parliament 8
Trade Associations 5
Department of Health and Social Services 8
Trading Standards and other official bodies 3

Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what has been the cost to his Department in each of the last three years of monitoring drug advertisements and investigating complaints.

Mr.Kenneth Clarke

Some administrative staff are engaged routinely for part of their time on monitoring of advertisements; it is estimated that their staff costs, including overheads, are of the order of £7,000 a year. This figure has remained broadly constant in real terms over the past three years. To this must be added the time spent by senior administrative staff and by professional staff including doctors, pharmacists and lawyers in monitoring, in considering whether action is needed on cases brought to notice, and where necessary in arranging and carrying out the investigation of complaints. This work is widely spread in the medicines division of my Department. Work is also undertaken in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whose investigators are used where special inquiries are needed. The total costs of these activities is variable and difficult to quantify.

Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services who interprets, and accordingly to what criteria, the meaning of the term "legible" in the regulations applying to drug advertisements.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

The medicines advertising regulations place a responsibility on pharmaceutical companies to ensure that their advertisements for medicines meet the requirements of that legislation, including legibility. Although the word "legible" is not defined in the regulations and has not been tested in the courts, the word should be given its ordinary meaning so that the necessary text is clear and capable of being read.

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