Pakistani Doctors Urge Prescription Drug Ad Crackdown

May 3, 2005

Local health professionals' group the Pakistani Medical Association (PMA) has criticised pharmaceutical company spending on promotion. The association is petitioning the government to oblige firms to reduce marketing expenditures and pass on savings to consumers, especially with regard to products that are touted to reduce deaths in childbirth.

The association has further claimed that drugmakers offer "bribes" to prescribers and has called on health officials to better regulate the relationship between marketers and doctors. However, it should be noted that much of the usual distinction between prescription and OTC drugs is blurred in Pakistan, with many prescription-only products widely available over the counter.

In view of the fact that the sector is worth some US$230 million per year, and its overall share of health spending remains dominant, it is unlikely that tougher regulation of prescribers alone will have the desired effect, as powerful pharmaceuticals become even more widely available without prescription.