Drug Advertising Debate Heats Up

The controversy over Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads, generally known as "DTCs" has heated up on several fronts as some within the medical profession and government view it as a possible expensive threat to consumer health, although some view it as being the next step in consumer education. Inside the July 2, 2001 publication of the AMA News, was a report in the recent AMA annual meeting in which the debate raged on and the opinions varied.

Recently, an attempt by many doctors to press the AMA to petition the Food and Drug Administration as well as the Federal Trade Commission to ban DTC advertising failed. Angelo Agro, MD, a New Jersey delegate from Voorhees who proposed a plan to ban DTC ads said. "We understand that a ban is not really going to take place for many types of reasons. What we really would like is some oversight with a few real teeth." Another dissenting voice originated from Dr. Fryhofer who stated, "Not only will we need to explain to our patients the nature of the medical issues that they may have, but we also have to go over why they do not require the drug which was advertised and what's the most appropriate option." Dr. Agro summed up his opinion by saying, "The public is just not being given the whole truth. By its very nature advertising is biased, and it is compressed. We aren't against information being brought to the patient, but we've got an issue when it is biased, limited and brought about by multimillion-dollar organizations which have an income motive only."

Even state legislature are beginning to get involved with the debate. According to a study in Reuters Health Jun 27, 2001, "A number of states have introduced bills this coming year to push pharmaceutical manufacturers to reveal what they invest in advertising and promoting their products to consumers." State legislatures are not only concerned with medical implications, they are also worried about the conclusion. Legislation targeting direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising is part of a growing strategy that states are utilizing to contain double-digit development in drug spending. According to the National Governors Association and National Association of State Budget Officers, prescription medicine now represents the 3rd largest expenditure in state Medicaid budgets. Drug costs under Medicaid are growing about 18% annually nearly double the rate of development in overall state Medicaid spending, they report. This trend is reflected on a national basis where some of the largest increases in prescription drug utilizations have been proved throughout the last five years. Currently drug companies spend approximately $2.5 billion per year on DTC ads.

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