The current situation is that pharmaceutical companies are prevented by law from communicating directly with patients and their carers about individual medicines except through the highly regulated patient information leaflets that are provided when medicines are dispensed.
Now the survey has indicated that the public would value a range of information sources about medicines and that the patient information leaflets produced by pharmaceutical companies are already a prime source for them to turn to.
"These results are very important. Patients who have used the pack leaflet have given a vote of confidence to the information they already receive from the pharmaceutical industry," said Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the ABPI.
"Given that people feel it is valuable that information about their medicines ought to be available from a variety of sources, it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry should be allowed to play its part. It takes up to 12 years to develop a new medicine, so it is obvious that the industry has far more high quality information and expertise in this area than anyone else.
"We are not talking about product advertising, but the ABPI would now like to see the removal of restrictions that prevent the industry from responding to patients who are seeking more information than we can currently provide."
The questions were asked in a survey - conducted by MORI Social Research Institute as part of the Ask About Medicines Week initiative - into the use of prescription medicines by the general public. One question asked which sources people used to obtain information about medicines. While doctors and pharmacists scored as the top sources, a third of people said they referred to patient information leaflets (PILs).
When asked which of the sources were of most use to them, a high proportion of people who had used one or more sources again opted for doctors and pharmacists - but a quarter cited PILs.
"PILs have their limitations because they have to meet a whole host of regulations that extend even to the size of the type used, but the results show that many patients are ready to accept information from the pharmaceutical industry as being helpful," said Dr Jones.
A further question asked if people thought it was valuable to have a range of different types of information about medicines from different sources - and an overwhelming 81 per cent agreed with the statement, with only seven per cent disagreeing.
"It is not surprising that people should want as much information about medicines as possible from a variety of sources - and the pharmaceutical industry is well placed to respond to this increasing demand from patients for a range of information sources about their medicines - the medicines researched and developed by pharmaceutical companies," said Dr Jones. "It is no longer acceptable to keep patients in the dark about their medicines and the treatment options available."
Note to Editors
The survey was funded by the Medicines Partnership, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and Merck Sharp & Dohme. MORI Social Research Institute interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,019 adults aged 15+ across 192 sampling points in Great Britain from July 17-22, 2003 on behalf of the Medicines Partnership. All interviews were conducted face-to-face in-home and the data have been weighted to the known profits of the British population.
For more information about Ask About Medicines Week, visit www.askaboutmedicines.org
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410