Matthew Dons: What Sets Japan Apart

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In Toyko, Japan
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Matthew Dons and I sit high above one of the busiest sections of Tokyo to discuss what it is that sets Japan apart from the rest of the world and why it is noteworthy and inspiring. We get into economics, demography, aging, work, family, healthcare and so much more.

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ctrp383 Abortion in America (2011 Update)

West
Snapshot from West Philadelphia

The violence and threats occasionally are reported about in the mainstream media. The threats to funding have also grabbed headlines this year. Almost two years since the murder of Dr. Tiller, what is the state of abortion in the United States? For those who perform the procedure. For those who need or want the procedure. How have things been changing for all the actors involved over the past few years.

 

To explain the state of things I’m visiting with one of my favorite people,  Leah, of the Philadelphia Women’s Center.

She was last on the program back in December of 2007, discussing the state of abortion in America at that time.

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Big Pharma Ads on Their Way

Anyone who has ever been to the United States, or watched commercials on American Television somehow, knows of the never-ending barrage of Pharmaceutical ads that have come to take over the gaps in between programming. They feature excessively clean and happy people walking through parks or high-fiving each other because some ailment they have has been cured by some brand name you should “ask your doctor about”. I can only imagine what its like to be a doctor in the United States today and have your patients coming up to you “asking about” a drug they saw on TV which they would like to have.

This has become the state of the American mediasphere, while over in the EU we still have in place relatively strong regulations preventing that kind of advertisement. Until now.

Ok perhaps the “until now” part makes things seem a little to dire, I would have done better to say that at this moment in time, the EU may relax its rules on Pharmaceutical and medical advertising.  Relaxing doesn’t mean we’ve got old people holding hands and discussing pills to lower their cholesterol on TV. But what we do have is a potential break from the clear policy of no medical advertising in the media.

The information is not easy to come by, perhaps due to its complexity or vagueness, so it is not exactly being discussed by the major news outlets.  What I’ve been able to gather at this point breaks down this way:

  • The change in policy would “allow pharmaceutical companies to provide information directly to consumers”
  • This was proposed in 2008, but put away soon thereafter due to strong criticism from member states.
  • The information they provide would have to be factual, objective, and not seek to advertise prescription drugs.
  • Any such information will go through a committee or a panel that will decide if it meets standards.

Of course many questions remain which I will now pose to various stakeholders and associations, regarding such a change.  Is this taking the EU down the same path as the United States, towards bombarding citizens with clever and appealing visuals regarding what they should choose for when it comes to health and medicine? Is there a push now within EU institutions to pursue this as early as this year? While I’m at it, just how powerful and influencial is the pharmaceutical lobby in Brussels?

Hopefully very soon Ill have some answers which you’ll be able to find right here in a future post.

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Ask Your EU Doctors About

No this is not a spam post.

While in the United States I usually watch a bit of television and I definitely spend time listening to the radio. One thing you’ll have no problem encountering on both of these mediums: ads that include the phrase “ASk Your Doctor About…” and then some perscription drug to help some ailment. Apparently the public should then go to their doctors and tell THEM what drugs they want.

In the European Union this practice has long been banned. No ads with senior citizens strolling on the beach recommending that you ask your doctor about some brilliant new drug.

However, this October the EU will roll out new pharmaceutical policies that are intended to, in their words, “Modernize” the rules for the pharma industry. One of the provisions they’re putting forward will allow the pharma industry to provide “additional information” to the public via the media. Which of course would make it possible for some sort of television ad within Europe that presents viewers with what the industry seems additional info, whatever that means in the end.

Various medical organizations throughout Europe as well as Ministries of Health, are sounding the alarms, concerned that this is one step towards the US style onsluaght of ads suggestion you need to ask your doctor about this and that drug in order to happily walk through the forest. The industry, meanwhile, insists that they would have no interest in that type of information campaign, and would instead want this to free them up for internet based info that people can request, rather than have it pushed on them. Meanwhile, advocates of the changes insist that there are many other useful policies included in the package, and that there would be some oversight as to what would be deemed suitable additional information.

This change sounds like the first of many on the road towards a US style system where pharmaceutical companies treat people more like customers than patients. Beyond that, makes medicine ever more like a business than a service. Is it too late to stop them? I will try to find out.

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