Contributed By Walder Wyss Ltd
Advertising of medicines is defined as all information, marketing and incentivising measures aimed at promoting the prescription, supply, sale, consumption or use of medicines. However, general information on health and diseases without any direct or indirect references to individual medicines is not considered to constitute advertising. Furthermore, the packing material and the drug information are not deemed to be advertising, either (Article 1 paragraph 2 lit. a and c; Article 2 lit. a AWV).
General information on health and diseases is not considered to be advertising as long as there are no direct or indirect references to individual medicines. Therefore, general information will turn into advertising if an active substance is named in connection with a measure aiming at promoting the sale of a particular medicine containing the said active substance.
Since the packing material and the drug information are not subject to the AWV, they may – in principle – be made available to the public in connection with general information on health and diseases. However, if packing material and drug information are made available in connection with information on a particular disease and possible treatments, they may be considered to be a direct or indirect reference to an individual medicine and therefore to constitute advertising. If general information on health and diseases fulfils the criteria of completeness, objectivity and balance, a link to the homepage of “swissmedicinfo” would, however, be conceivable.
In light of the mentioned rules, disease awareness campaigns do not qualify as advertising if there are no direct or indirect references to individual medicines.
With regard to advertising to the public, general information on health and diseases may not contain any references to prescription medicines (Article 32 para. 2 lit. a HMG; Article 14 AWV).
Press releases regarding individual medicines are allowed in principle. However, if a press release falls within the definition of advertising, ie if the information provided aims at promoting the prescription, supply, sale, consumption or use of a medicine, the restrictions with regard to advertising must be adhered to. In particular, press releases accessible to the public may not contain any references to prescription medicines. Therefore, press releases referring directly or indirectly to prescription medicines must be accessible to media professionals exclusively and be protected by way of password access restriction (as is the case for advertising to healthcare professionals; art. 5a AWV).
If articles and contributions from other media about a company or its medicines are offered on the website of that company (press reviews), the content of these articles and contributions are attributed to that company in terms of advertising law. Therefore, the provisions of the AWV are fully applicable to such press reviews (Swissmedic Journal 8/2006, p. 796 et seqq.).
Furthermore, advertising must be recognisable as such. Therefore, advertising and editorial contributions must be clearly separated (Article 5 para. 4 AWV).
Statements relating to comparisons with other medicines are generally permitted if they are scientifically correct and based on equivalent clinical trials or data collections. Such clinical trials must have been conducted in accordance with the rules of good clinical practice and be published or accepted for publication. Data collections (such as meta-analyses or practical experience reports) must have been published in a scientifically recognised specialist medium. If studies are used for comparison purposes that are based on experiments in vitro or on animals, this must be disclosed openly (Article 7 AWV).
Furthermore, it is prohibited to disparage others, their goods or prices by making incorrect, misleading or unnecessarily offensive statements or to take measures that are likely to cause confusion with their goods. Also, it is prohibited to compare oneself, one’s goods or prices in an incorrect, misleading, unnecessarily disparaging or similar manner with others, their goods or prices. Such advertising would constitute unfair competition (Article 3 para. 1 lit. a, d and e UWG).