In most EU countries detailed advertising rules specific to medical devices (MD) still do not exist, unlike in the case of pharmaceuticals.
Discussions are ongoing as to whether rules similar to those governing promotion of pharmaceuticals should also be adopted in relation to promoting MD, including disclosure of contributions to health care professionals (HCP).
Unlike in Lithuania or Germany, Latvian law does not contain any MD-specific advertising rules; only a couple of general restrictions affect HCP in accepting benefits related to the supply of MD.
Moreover, the new EU Medical Device Regulation (MDR) applicable as of 26 May 2020 and the EU In-Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device Regulation (IVDMDR) applicable as of 26 May 2022 also do not govern advertising either.
In addition, the Code of Ethical Business Practice of MedTech Europe (a pan-European association of medical device manufacturers and distributors) regulating certain advertising aspects binds only the members of the association, while several market participants fall outside the scope of the Code.
This means that in Latvia MD can be freely promoted, including advertising on social media, insofar as advertising complies with general requirements. For example, an advertisement must not mislead; a comparative advertisement must comply with the principles of fair competition and must use only provable facts.
Promotion on electronic media and social media
The only MD-specific restriction in Latvia relates to advertising on electronic mass media (“Electronic Media”), which includes TV, radio and certain audio-visual programmes broadcast via the internet.
The law prohibits any commercials on Electronic Media relating to medical treatment available only with a doctor’s prescription (by analogy applying the general prohibition on advertising prescription pharmaceuticals). This means that advertising on Electronic Media for all treatment involving MD which require a doctor’s involvement is prohibited.
For example, advertising particular contact lenses (corrective or non-corrective) via Electronic Media is not allowed since these MD can be used only with a doctor’s prescription. In contrast, blood pressure monitors, thermometers, stethoscopes, scales or bandages can be freely promoted, as everyone can use them without a doctor’s assistance.
However, promoting a particular manufacturer or service provider (sponsor) is allowed if indicating their name and reputation (experience) but without indicating specific MD or services related to specific MD.
In contrast, there are no social media specific restrictions. This means that MD manufacturers can freely use Facebook and similar media for promotion, insofar as those commercials comply with general advertising principles.
Patient testimonials are not restricted. However, they must not be misleading and must comply with general advertising rules (e.g. truthful, fair, objective).
In contrast, doctor’s testimonials are not allowed. The Latvian Code of Doctors’ Ethics prohibits HCP from engaging in self-promotion. However, medical entities (formed as a doctor’s private practice office, or as an outpatient facility, or a hospital) are allowed to advertise their services. There are no sector-specific rules applicable to such advertising, apart from the requirement that advertisements must indicate the registration number of the entity concerned.
For example, dentist Dr A is not allowed to advertise treatment provided by him involving particular denture adhesives, but the dental clinic of which Dr A is part is allowed to advertise its services. Dr A’s name could even form part of the clinic’s name (e.g. “Dr A’s dental clinic”).
The use of “fake doctors” (actors) would be prohibited too, as any such advertising can be treated as misleading. However, in practice the above requirements are rarely followed: the authorities are not closely controlling the promotional activities of MD.
Discussions are ongoing as to whether disclosure rules similar to those governing promotion of pharmaceuticals should also be adopted in relation to promoting MD (including disclosure of contributions to HCP). In Latvia, the plan is to elaborate specific measures later, coincidentally with the drafting of further amendments to the laws required for implementing certain provisions of the MDR and IVDMDR.