AMA calls for ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices

AMA calls for ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices

Doctors at a meeting of the American Medical Society (AMA) have called for a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices. The new policy supports an effort by the association to help make prescription drugs more affordable. Drug and device makers spend countless billions of dollars on advertising every year to promote their products to the public. The idea is that patients will then go to their doctors and demand the drug or device they saw on TV, online or in a magazine. According to a report from the AMA, most physicians are concerned that the “growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives.” In other words, cheaper and equally effective solutions are often available in place of the more expensive brands that are widely advertised. “Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.” United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. According to the market research firm Kantar Media, drug makers have increased their ad expenditures by 30 percent in the last two years, to $4.5 billion. That expense is added onto the end price that must be paid by individual patients and private or government insurers.

Why are we interested in this?

Here at Novus, we’re more concerned about the abuse of benzodiazapines and other psychoactive and addictive drugs than the cost of drugs. Studies show conclusively that direct-to-consumer advertising plays a big role in the use and abuse of psychoactive and addictive drugs. People are drawn in by the advertiser’s suggestions that every little problem in life can be solved by popping a pill. And off to the doctor they go. Of course, other studies show that many physicians have contributed to the escalation in drug abuse and overdose deaths by reaching too soon and too easily for the prescription pad. But that’s another subject, one that the AMA should spend some more time on sooner rather than later. We’re also interested in the fact that at that meeting, the AMA formed a new physician task force and advocacy campaign to “promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs,” as well as calling for an end to consumer drug advertising. The AMA’s call for more transparency addresses the “anticompetitive behavior in a consolidated pharmaceutical marketplace.” It will encourage federal regulators to limit anticompetitive behavior by pharmaceutical companies and stop generic manufacturers from jacking up prices for no reason other than shareholder dividends. All brave words. But now it’s up to the AMA to put some teeth into their new policy and convince legislators, the FDA and other stakeholders to act responsibly and put an end to the drug industry’s policies of money first, help second. Meanwhile, if you’re a victim of one or more of the many TV drug advertising campaigns, and you're growing more and more dependent on pills to get through the day, call Novus. We can help you get off that merry-go-round and get your life back.

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