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Promotion of over-the-counter medicines

Editor, – I concur with Agnes Vitry ('And next: a flask of wine for Daddy?' Aust Prescr 2003;26:99–102). How is it possible that a drug company is allowed in Australia to promote drugs with free giveaways? I believe in most States pharmacists are not legally entitled to promote or advertise such medications.

The selection of an over-the-counter drug should be a therapeutic one, taking into consideration efficacy, adverse effects, safety, quality and quantity of drug information and cost. Free giveaways adversely influence such selections.

Although the evidence for many over-the-counter lines in Australia can be minimal, we nevertheless have a culture and tradition of usage. So even if evidence is scarce on the therapeutics of a drug, what little we have in addition to traditional usage, should play a far more important role than free giveaways.

Furthermore pharmacists should see this as another argument for drug companies to be allowed to promote such drugs in supermarkets, allowing unrestricted access to the public. For if the choice of a drug is dependent more on giveaways rather than therapeutics there is no reason to restrict its access to pharmacies. It is one thing to promote sunscreen with giveaways, it is quite another to do so with restricted over-the-counter products.

Derek Grubb
Australind, WA