I’m sure everyone who works in healthcare advertising can agree that a Code of Conduct is generally a good thing. We are dealing with substances that, if used incorrectly, can cause great harm. So ensuring that the way we communicate the attributes of pharmaceutical products is balanced, fair, and most importantly correct, benefits everyone. However, I’m also sure that everyone regularly curses the increasingly ridiculous restrictions placed on us by Medicines Australia. Personally I think the nadir was when they took away our adjectives, but that’s very much a writer’s perspective.

I think the real issue is not so much that we have a highly restrictive code of conduct, but that the people who decide what can and can’t be communicated, and the manner in which that communication can and can’t be carried out seem to believe that our audience – highly educated, intelligent individuals – have the mental capacity of my 6-month old niece. No one is immune to marketing, but I have yet to meet a member of the medical profession who is unaware that when a product rep drops by, or a piece of direct mail hits the desk or the desktop, the primary purpose of that interaction is to get them to prescribe a particular product. This is not to say they cannot be led by a pretty image or engaging headline to try a new product, but if that product is not right for a patient they simply will not prescribe it.

So, we have this Code of Conduct and all of us in the advertising industry spend time and creative energy working out ways to subvert it, because that’s our job. The petty bureaucrats at MA who think they are making the world ‘safer’ for I-don’t-know-who by making it increasingly difficult to inform members of the medical profession about drugs and devices that have been approved for sale by the TGA – a body comprised primarily of scientists – cannot win this fight. Pharmaceutical products are legal, and it is legal to advertise and promote their use, and those of us who make it our business to do so have creativity on our side.

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