A ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising could threaten the viability of the pharmaceutical industry in New Zealand, the National Party said today.
Health spokesman Tony Ryall was reacting to a report by The Press today saying the Government would soon tighten controls on the multimillion-dollar industry.
Health Minister Pete Hodgson's office said an announcement on direct-to-consumer advertising was likely "within weeks", the report said.
Mr Ryall said a ban would make sponsorship of events by drug companies illegal and would see a decline in industry-funded research.
"This is another example of nanny state 'Labour knows best'," he said.
"Consumers have a right to know that these pharmaceuticals are available, and can be accessed.
"Surely we want a health system where people can make choices and play a role ion their own healthcare."
The newspaper report said the Health Ministry, which sought public comment on the issue before April this year, estimated the industry spent $38 million in 2004 advertising medicines and health products.
Christchurch School of Medicine's Professor Les Toop has repeatedly warned that drug advertising threatens the public's health.
Unsubsidised painkillers Vioxx and Celebrex were heavily promoted to the public before evidence showed they increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes, the report said.
New Zealand and United States are the only two developed countries that allow advertising of prescription drugs directly to the consumer.