[UPDATED] Advertising for drugs, forbidden on Romanian radio and TV. Ad industry reacts

Business, Comm & Politics, Creativity, Marketing

[adds the position expressed by IAA Romania on this matter]

Romanian Senate gave a positive vote, on Monday, on a law project that sees forbidden the explicit radio and TV advertising for drugs. The project – voted by the Romanian Senate as decisional chamber – allows promoting in other media channels drugs sold without medical prescription, but with approval from the National Agency for Drugs.

The law project, adopted with 100 “yea” votes and 7 “nay”, was previously rejected by 2 commissions (Culture and Public Health ones) on the grounds it “imposes excessive and unjustified restrictions who disrespect the constitutional dispositions and, on the other hand, doesn’t align with some European directives”, as Romanian news agency Mediafax informs.

The same initiative also forbids, on radio and TV, promoting pharmacies advertised as representing a model for the other businesses of the same kind and advertising for pharmacies which includes indirect advertising for drugs. laso forbidden for promotion on radio and TV are the commercial communications related to medical products or treatments.

The mentioned law project was silently adopted by Romanian Chamber of Representatives and received the vote of Senate, and the only step still needed before it becomes a mandatory law and starts producing effects is to be ratified by the Romanian president.

After the vote in Senate, Romanian Advertising Agencies Association (UAPR) issued a press release expressing its point of view regarding the legislative initiative.

The press release states:

UAPR considers that the law project forbidding advertising for drugs within TV and radio programs represent an unjustified limitation for access to the information. Passing the bill by Romanian Parliament is even more surprising as Romanian Government, Romanian National Audiovisual Council and the specialized Committees (health and media) from the 2 Chambers recommended rejecting it.

We all agree advertising must respect certain professional and ethical standards and RAAA always stood up for that, during discussions with its members but also with the authorities. Still, as long as a set of products and services are distributed legally and are regulated in a clear manner, such is the advertising for drugs sold without medical prescription and pharmacies, a limitation in communication isn’t justified. We are open for collaboration with the authorities in order to clarify the eventual confusions between meds sold without medical prescription and supplements and to harmonize the legislative frame  regulating communication for each category.

UAPR also notes that the debates and speeches made in the Senate showed senators’ good intentions and their desire to protect the population from deceptive advertising and self-medication risk.

It must be said that the existing legislation is strictly regulating the advertising for drugs sold without medical prescription, comparative advertising and deceptive advertising (Law 95/2006, Law  148/2000, chap. II, CNA Decision 220/2011, OMS 194/2015, Directive 2001/83/CE), so a supra-regulation and a limitation in communication are disproportionate measures. Regarding self-medication, European statistics show Romania has one of  lowest rates of self-medication in Europe.

UAPR notes that the proposal is far from impacting in a positive manner over population’s health and has a negative effect by limiting the access to info and by limiting consumer’s right to get info on pharma products and services available on the market.

The negative impact of this proposal is a serious one also financially, UAPR appreciates, showing that state’s budget income will diminish as a result of a decrease of incomes of media and communication industry and of a restriction of the activity within the pharma industry.

UAPR asks to Romanian president to resend the law project back to the Parliament, as it is ambiguous at formal level and can lead to contradictory interpretations.

When it comes of the content, the lawmaker’s intention to restrict the access to information by forbidding TV and radio communications contradicts its mission to act in citizen’s interest. Considering this law’s logic, we can expect anytime for the Romanian Parliament to justify, in the name of the public interest, restricting access to information and the limitation, even censoring for informational feeds from any sector.

[update Dec 16th]

IAA Romania issued a press release expressing its surprise related to the vote made by Romanian Senate a few days ago on a project that forbids advertising for non-prescription meds and medical treatments on radio and TV.

As we argued during the consultations with Committees for Culture and Media and for Public Health, as also in all the position documents issued on this matter, the project voted today by Senate represents a new unneeded intervention of the state in the way industries with private capital and important investments in Romania are operating and will have negative consequences, without bringing any benefits to the Romanian citizen.

According to IAA, the proposed measure “is unprecedented in Europe and contradicts Directive 2001/83/CE which allows European states to have advertising for human use drugs which are available without prescription and excludes the possibility for states to introduce in their internal legislation restrictions on this matter”, the adopted law “limits with no clear reasons the consumers’ right to inform on pharmacies offer and available non-prescribed medical treatments”,  and “there are no studies to show a trend of exaggerate and unjustified consumption of drugs in Romania.

Related to the same project, IAA mentions that

  • Advertising for drugs and supplements is already regulated trough 6 normative acts at national level, 3 European Directives, a Regulation from European Commission and 3 acts and mechanisms of self-regulation of the media and advertising industry
  • Implementing the law proposal wouldn’t generate a better protection of the consumer against drugs abuse (…) because the law project in its actual form will not stop the access of the consumers to medical products’ communication, but only to the one distributed via channels that are under Romanian jurisdiction
  • Implementing the proposal will have a profoundly negative effect over the ad industry
  • The measure will also generate directly a decrease in the level of taxes and fees.

Same as UAPR, IAA also demands Romanian president to not ratify the law project and send it back to the Parliament to be reexamined