AMA Pushes To Ban Direct To Consumer Drug Advertising

As reported in the Washington Post, the American Medical Association wants to change the advertising landscape of professional golf telecasts, baseball games, and the game show Jeopardy. The AMA passed a resolution condemning the practice that allows drug companies to advertise medications in the direct to consumer format. TV advertising is the largest expenditure in the DTC category. If this resolutions was a law there would be no more cialis bathtubs, no more lists of crazy side effects, and no more middle aged ladies in generic sports apparel. The AMA would eliminate a majority of pharmaceutical advertising.

The AMA claims that price inflation is the largest problem caused by direct-to-consumer advertising.

“The group reported a 30 percent uptick in the money spent on DTC ads in the past two years, now a total of $4.5 billion. Meanwhile, prescription drug prices rose nearly 5 percent this year.”

Their argument is that drug companies are spending so much on DTC advertising which inevitably raises costs and then drug prices. There is a reason Bayer Aspirin costs more than the store brand and much of the difference is due additional marketing expense. DTC advertising persuades people to ask their doctors for expensive name brand treatments, when effective generic or less costly alternatives are available. This is an inefficiency in the system that contributes to healthcare inflation. Drugs should not be marketed directly to consumers. The patient-doctor conversation should not be influenced by drug companies advertising dollars.

The United States and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow this type of advertising, and the AMA is trying to get us off this shortlist of two. There is no guarantee that Congress would attempt to pass legislation of this type of reform, but the AMA is a strong industry voice advocating for a sensible policy regulating prescription drug marketing.

In 1997, the FDA changed a guideline allowing drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. Before this ads were vague calls for improved life if you talked to your doctor about the drug. After the guidelines changed:

“Within a decade, the industry’s budget for DTC ads ballooned from little more than $300 million to more than $3 billion.”

All the money going into marketing is money that is not going into research and development. It is money that is not going to shareholders as profits or as savings to consumers. It is a very big factor in the constant rise of drug prices in the United States. The AMA is right to highlight one of the major problems in our countrys healthcare system that causes high prices and exacerbates inefficiencies.

If Congress could legislate and provide the greatest good to the greatest number, it would regulate how drug companies market their products as a priority to lower health costs. A legislative response would be a logical conclusion to stop direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. An industry practice that takes place in only one other modern country in the world.