Paper Makers Lobby to Retain Mandate for Costly and Useless Long Pamphlets with Prescription Drugs

(p. B5) Doctors and pharmacists receive lengthy pamphlets for all prescription drugs that can stretch as long as a dining-room table. Efforts to go digital in this heavily regulated industry are finally making headway, offering drugmakers the chance to provide up-to-date information while also saving money, trees and greenhouse-gas emissions.

. . .

Advocates arguing such prescription information should go fully digital say the instructions are only for medical professionals, who often already consult up-to-date electronic versions and leave the papers unread and discarded. Proponents of keeping paper say the printed instructions are consulted frequently enough to help ensure medicine is used safely.

. . .

“It’s like a dream come true looking in the facility and seeing the packs coming off the manufacturing lines without these paper leaflets,” said Pam Cheng, operations and sustainability chief at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. “This is like win, win, win.”

AstraZeneca spends $30 million a year on the papers globally and is pushing to digitize prescribing information as part of its goal to cut 50% of emissions across its value chain by 2030, Cheng said. The company aims to have a plan by 2025 for all its medical information to go electronic by the end of the decade. Many other pharma companies also want to go digital.

. . .

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 proposed to replace the paper information with a digital source, saying it would ensure information is up-to-date and bring environmental and cost benefits. However, an obscure clause in the FDA’s Congressional spending bill has blocked the move, with intense lobbying from two dedicated groups: the Alliance to Modernize Prescribing Information, representing drugmakers such as AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly and Pfizer, and the Pharmaceutical Printed Literature Association, backed by paper producers such as Avery Dennison, JP Gould and WestRock.

. . .

Other countries have digitized drug information, with Japan leading the way. In 2021, the country required drug inserts to go digital by August 2023, both those for patients and medical professionals.

For the full story, see:

Dieter Holger. “Bill Would Let Drugmakers Stop Printing Long Pamphlets.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 16, 2023): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 15, 2023, and has the title “One Change Could Help U.S. Drugmakers Save 11 Million Trees a Year.”)

One thought on “Paper Makers Lobby to Retain Mandate for Costly and Useless Long Pamphlets with Prescription Drugs”

  1. Meh. It depends on whether the instructions are truly solely for the professionals, in which case the paper may not be needed. But things sometimes don’t work out that neatly.

    In the not-so-neat cases, I wouldn’t necessarily expect every patient to be up-to-date on whatever arbitrary software technology is capriciously required to display a particular set of instructions. Or in some situations, even to remember, or to be capable of readily doing, all the persnickety fiddling that we take for granted as necessary to view even the simplest thing over the net.

    And really, in the big picture, is the number of trees involved even visible? Or is this just another of those scary-looking meaningless click-bait memes so beloved by today’s corrupt oh-we’re-all-gonna-die media?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *