And Brussels may indeed be moving in that direction.
Last March in Brussels I appeared on a panel with James Copping, the Principal Administrator for the EUâ€™s Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General, the body drafting the EUâ€™s go-forward recommendations on a how the EU should address what they refer to as ItP or Information-to-Patients.
One interchange between Jim and me that is worth sharing:
COPPING: "We must find new ways to regulate health care information to patients."
PITTS: "Jim, I think a better way to frame the question is to say that you need to find new ways to facilitate health care information to patients.â€
COPPING: "Yes, thatâ€™s right.â€
Well, it seems as though Mr. Copping has done just that.
According to a report in the The Financial Times, draft recommendations prepared for a pharmaceuticals forum, jointly chaired by the European commissioners for enterprise and health, will call for industry participation in partnerships for "information creation and exchange" on diseases for patients and citizens.
They propose a trial scheme to provide "high-quality health-related information" on diabetes, offering data to the non-specialist in all official EU languages, drawing on authorised disease databases, with input from doctors, patient groups and health insurers as well as industry.
The move would mark a significant shift away from the current ban in Europe of US-style "direct to consumer advertising," which forbids drugs companies from any form of direct communication with patients.
With partial exceptions in the UK and Sweden, European legislation prevents drugs companies from even responding to inquiries from patients, let alone advertising their medicines beyond specialist publications for medical professionals. That has created a situation long decried by the industry, by which patients can find all manner of unreliable information on diseases and treatments on the internet, with the pharmaceuticals manufacturers the only groups banned from providing data.
The initiative comes after previous efforts to ease the rules on pharmaceuticals communication were crushed by health insurers and consumer groups wary of industry influence and manipulation.
Good luck Mr. Copping. We're watching.