Is it possible to advertise medicines?

The Bertrand law, introduced in 2011, is at the heart of regulations governing medicines advertising in France. Its main aim is to protect consumers and ensure the responsible use of medicines. The same law also regulates advertising by healthcare professionals. Let's take a look at the legal framework for medicines advertising in France.

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Summary of article: Is it possible to advertise medicines?

  1. Publicité pour médicament : qu'est-il possible de faire ?
  2. Publicité pour médicament à destination du grand public
  3. Publicité pour médicament à destination des professionnels de santé
  4. Exemples de campagnes publicitaires de médicaments réussies

Medicines advertising: what can you do?

The first question we need to answer is "what is a medicine?" French legislation defines it as a product with curative or preventive properties in respect of human (but also animal) diseases, or whose purpose is to establish a medial diagnosis. In other words, this term covers an enormous number of substances with different properties, to which the same rules do not apply when it comes to advertising, but also to the audience to which it is addressed: healthcare professionals or the general public.

The promotion of a medicine must follow the same rules as those established for the communication of a health product:

  • it must promote the proper use of the medicine;
  • it must not induce bad prescribing or use habits, but must comply with HAS (Haute Autorité de Santé) recommendations;
  • it must not be misleading;
  • it must not present a danger to public health.

Whether aimed at the general public or healthcare professionals, a drug can only be promoted if the advertisement has first been checked by the ANSM (Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament), the only body authorized to issue advertising approval.

>>> Learn more about advertising in the healthcare sector


Medicine advertising to the general public

Pharmaceutical companies have the right to promote a drug to the general public, provided that the product is not subject to compulsory medical prescription and is not reimbursable by compulsory health insurance schemes. In addition, the medicine must not be subject to an advertising ban or restriction, as it may pose a risk to public health.

Certain pharmaceutical substances, such as smoking cessation products and vaccines, may be exempt from these rules, on public health grounds established by order of the Minister of Health.

Medicines may be advertised to the general public in any medium (TV, radio, OOH, press, etc.).

Whatever the media used, drug advertising must be accompanied by a message of caution, advising the consumer to consult a doctor if symptoms persist.

>>> How do you advertise a new product?


Medicine advertising for healthcare professionals

Medicines can also be promoted to healthcare professionals. To do so, products must have marketing authorization.

Medicines may be promoted to the medical profession (doctors, pharmacists, dental surgeons, midwives) by pharmaceutical company sales representatives, or in the medical press and new media.

Advertising medicines to healthcare professionals must comply with a number of rules. The information it contains must be :

  • correct ;
  • up-to-date ;
  • verifiable;
  • complete for an idea of the drug's therapeutic value.

In the event of a reassessment of a medicine's risk/benefit ratio, advertising is prohibited until the procedure has been completed.

>>> How long does it take to launch an advertising campaign?


Examples of successful medicine advertising campaigns

Ad for Donormyl 15mg - UPSA

This UPSA Laboratories ad, broadcast in January 2022, for its drug Donormyl 15mg (for occasional insomnia in adults) manages to get all the information viewers need across in 15 seconds. The message and the visual and aural ambience of the commercial promise a peaceful night's sleep: even the legal disclaimer is delivered in a calm, soothing tone.

Ad for Doliprane Liquiz

Storytelling is the angle taken by this Sanofi ad, broadcast in May 2022, to promote Doliprane Liquiz, an easy-to-take paracetamol oral suspension. To support the claim that it's "a practical, take-anywhere format", the drug is staged in a situation in which it's "difficult" to take a drug - kayaking. And yet, one of the two characters in the TV spot manages to fight pain with ease.

Ad for Camilia

Who hasn't recited a brand slogan while watching a TV commercial? Especially if that slogan is sung. The Boiron laboratory has understood this and decided to use it in this 2019 commercial for Camilia homeopathic medicine, which "soothes baby when he's teething". It's all set to a rhythm reminiscent of a nursery rhyme, with visuals reminiscent of picture books for the very young.

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