Department of Health
Market Towers 1 Nine Elms Lane London SW8 5NQ
Telephone 0171-273 0600
Facsimile 0171- 273 0737 .our ref: OG 00/05
20 April 2000

Dear Mr Medawar, 

I am replying to your request of 25 of February 2000 for information about any assessment by the Medicines Control Agency or the Committee on Safety of Medicines of the additional benefits, risks and costs that would result if the current UK law was changed to permit "direct to consumer advertising".

As you say, direct to consumer advertising (DTC) is against UK and European law and, irrespective of what has happened in the USA, the MCA has not made any detailed assessment of the benefits, risks and costs that might follow should the current law be changed. Earlier this year the Medicines Commission (not the Committee on the Safety of Medicines) asked the MCA to highlight the issues surrounding DTC. The resultant paper did not contain any costings or conclusions and was intended to provide the Medicines Commission with a basis for subsequent discussion.

That discussion and any advice the Medicines Commission may decide to give to Ministers has not yet been completed. I am therefore not prepared to provide any further information under Exemption 2 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The particular section of this exemption which applies is the second bullet point "internal opinion, advice, recommendation, consultation and deliberation".

If you consider that your request for information has been unreasonably withheld under the terms of the Code, you may, as you know, ask for an internal MCA review or you can ask a Member of Parliament to make a complaint on your behalf to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration who may decide to conduct his own investigation. 

Yours sincerely
Roy Alder
Head of Executive Support


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