Trade Agreements and Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals

Photo via Unsplash.

International trade agreements negotiated over the last two decades have included many provisions affecting domestic health policy, such as regulations surrounding direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA). Recent trade agreements negotiated by the United States incorporate provisions that may constrain national regulation of DTCA. There is growing concern about the risks posed by DTCA of prescription pharmaceuticals, including online.

A journal article in the International Journal of Health Policy and Management by Deborah Gleeson and David B. Menkes examines the implications of these trade provisions for the ability of nation states to prohibit or circumscribe DTCA.

The authors explain that DTCA of prescription pharmaceuticals is banned in most countries due to perceived harmful effects on rational prescribing, pharmaceutical expenditure and health outcomes. However, trade agreements such as the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) and the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) have begun to explicitly mention DTCA and provide space for pharmaceutical advertising. Overall, recent trade agreements negotiated by the United States threaten domestic regulation of DTCA and countries should be cautious about accepting provisions that legalize DTCA.

Read the Journal Article