What is it about?

European legislation prohibits direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines, but allows drug manufacturers to provide information to the public on health and diseases. Our aim was to measure the frequency of disease awareness campaigns in Latvian media and assess their compliance with ethical standards. We collected 263 materials from print (n = 149) and online media (n = 114). Cancer, cardiovascular problems, allergies and respiratory diseases were common topics. Of the 157 campaigns assessed, non-compliance with ethical standards was identified in 149 cases, mainly due to misleading or incomplete information, lack of balance and the absence of a listed author/sponsor. Six disease awareness campaigns directly mentioned a pharmaceutical product by brand name and other four included the logo or name of a manufacturer, referred to a condition and indirectly mentioned a treatment, all in contravention with European law. The compliance of disease awareness campaigns in Latvian media with international and European standards is low.

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Why is it important?

Our research raises concerns about the nature of information being conveyed in disease awareness campains. Through lack of balance, missing sponsorship information, and misleading or incomplete information, these campaigns could contribute to inaccurate self-diagnosis and generate demand among those who might not need medical treatment

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This page is a summary of: Disease awareness campaigns in printed and online media in Latvia: cross-sectional study on consistency with WHO ethical criteria for medicinal drug promotion and European standards, BMC Public Health, November 2018, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1186/s12889-018-6202-2.
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