Direct communication between the pharmaceutical industry and the public is a returning theme on the EU agenda. As opposed to the United States of America, in EU countries it is prohibited to advertise to the public medicinal products for human use that are subject to prescription. However, the boundary between advertising and information provision is interpreted differently across EU countries. Equal access to objective, reliable, updated and non-promotional information on medicines is a patient right that can be obstructed by cross-country differences in the interpretation of the difference between advertising and information. The paper discusses recent efforts of European Union institutions to establish an EU law framework for information for the public on prescription medicines. It analyzes the goals and methods proposed to enhance equal access to information with focus on internet-based information. It summarizes the pros and cons of online medicine information from the perspective of patients and their doctors. Furthermore, the paper discusses whether the proposed framework clarifies the borderline between advertising and information and whether it is likely to enhance co-operation between patients and their doctors.
Keywords: prescription medicines, access to information for patients, European Union law, patient-doctor co-operation