Introduction

On November 17, 2015 the American Medical Association (AMA) called for a ban on Direct to Consumer (DTC) Advertising of Prescription Drugs and Devices. The AMA pointed to various reasons for its concerns – chief amongst which was the goal to make prescription drugs more affordable. This is not the first time the AMA has mounted such an effort.

AMA’s Position

Pointing to a 30% increase in DTC advertising spend, AMA Board Chair-Elect stated that “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.” The AMA continued that Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patient’s health plan. In a worst-case scenario, patients forego necessary treatments when drugs are too expensive. The AMA further pointed out that the various pharmaceutical mergers had the potential to exacerbate these drug costs. Of course – if DTC promotions were to drop, this would decrease sales for advertising companies, and may have the same impact on the sale of pharmaceuticals.

PhRMA Response

PhRMA, citing FDA research, pointed out that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners.” PhRMA asserted that “beyond increasing patient awareness of disease (including undiagnosed conditions) and available treatments, DTC advertising has been found to increase awareness of the benefits and risks of new medicines and encourage appropriate use of medicines.”

Coalition for Healthcare Communications

Coalition for Healthcare Communication executive director John Kamp said that the AMA’s decision is a “policy mistake” and that abolishing DTC “would violate the spirit and letter of the First Amendment right of companies to tell the truth about their products and services.”

Conclusion

The AMA is an important ally to the life science industry and it is important to recognize their concerns. However, while their concerns on drug pricing and accessibility are laudable, the AMA’s position on DTC doesn’t recognize the investment and risk in bringing new and innovative products to market. Nevertheless, it is important that companies understand these concerns and make special efforts to promote the laudable goals of increasing patient awareness of diseases available treatments, benefits and risks of new medicines and encourage appropriate use of medicines.

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