The College’s official stance on health issues; position statements provide advice for the government and health organisations.

College positions statements are developed for issues of particular importance or in response to new developments. They are formed after reviewing recent literature, existing College documents and the position statements of other health organisations in New Zealand and overseas. Our position statements are a collaborative effort; as well as internal peer review, we invite members to comment on draft statements before they are approved by the College Board.

Direct to Consumer Advertising

Direct to Consumer Advertising (DTCA) of prescription medicines causes considerable public harm through misinformation and stimulation of unsuitable or unnecessary demand for costly treatment, leading to inappropriate prescribing. The College advocates that legislation should amended to prioritise the protection of public health over the interests of private industry: Prohibition of DTCA of prescription medication should be introduced.

 Read the full position statement

Why is the College interested in DTCA?
DTCA increases the likelihood of the consumer requesting the advertised product and/or believing they have a condition. Our members are usually the clinician being asked to prescribe a medication by patients. 

While GPs are skilled at assessing and communicating whether the requested medication is appropriate, patient demand has been shown to result in an overall increase in prescribing. Inappropriate prescribing and polypharmacy can cause harm to the patient and creates unnecessary costs for both the patient and health system.  Furthermore, unwarranted patient demand can damage the highly valued doctor-patient relationship.
 
Background 
Under current legislation, pharmaceutical companies are able to advertise their prescription-only medicines directly to consumers through television, magazines, newspapers, radio and other mass media. There is currently work underway to replace this legislation and its regulations with a new regime for therapeutic products. This presents an opportunity to prohibit DTCA of prescription medications. 

A common argument in support of DTCA is that it informs and educates patients about medication options – particularly those not on the pharmaceutical schedule, which empowers them in their own healthcare decision-making. Additionally, as the promoted medications require a prescription, DTCA may contribute to increased interaction between consumers and clinicians, and with healthcare providers in general. Another purported benefit of DTCA of prescription medications is that it may prevent some ‘under-diagnosis’ and under-treatment of conditions by prompting patient enquiry about symptoms and conditions. Supporters of DTCA assert that the need to consult a prescriber to access the medication is considered sufficient public protection against any risks association with the pharmaceutical. 

However, evidence indicates that product and ‘health information’ provided in DTCA is not of sufficient quality to be considered educational. Advertisements are often vague, misleading, unbalanced, use emotional appeals and can be misinterpreted as a public health message. It is argued that DTCA undermines the value of scientific evidence through its misuse and that DTCA alters the public’s perceptions of the safety of prescription medications. Some forms of DTCA, that describe ‘conditions’ and ‘symptoms’ medicalise normal human experiences and contribute to the social psyche that medication is the first choice of treatment for health concerns. 

Climate Change and Sustainability

'The current and projected effects of climate change on health and equity led the College to believe that general practice has a key role to play in raising awareness of the impacts of climate change on health, in social leadership and the promotion of appropriate lifestyle choices and in supporting health sector movement towards sustainable systems.'

Read the College's position statement on 'Climate change, health and general practice in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific' (November 2016).

We have also developed recommendations for GPs and for the College which are available to members through the Dashboard.

To support members and the sector to become more environmentally sustainable, the College has revised and updated the Greening General Practice guide; a toolkit for sustainable practice.

Tobacco 

‘Around 5000 premature smoking related deaths still occur in New Zealand every year, both as a consequence of active smoking and through exposure to second hand smoke.’ 

Read the College's Tobacco Position Statement (July 2012).

Pacific Peoples' Health 

‘Pacific peoples have a higher death rate and a lower life expectancy than other ethnic groups, excluding Māori.’

Read the College's Pacific Peoples' Health Position Statement (March 2012)

Achieving health equity by eliminating health inequities 

‘In all countries, more socially disadvantaged groups have poorer health, greater exposure to health risks and poorer access to health services.’

Read the Health Inequities Position Statement (Feb 2012)

‘Doctors working in New Zealand general practice should be vocationally trained’ 

‘Around one quarter of doctors working in general practice are not vocationally registered, nor participating in vocational training.’ 

Read the College's Statement of Vocational Training (Sep 2010)