Physicians at the American Medical Association (AMA) on Tuesday called to ban direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for drugs and devices because of the negative impact of the commercially driven promotions.
Physicians revealed concerns that the increase of ads in the US (only the US and New Zealand allow DTC advertising for drugs and devices) is driving demand for newer, more expensive treatments even though less-costly alternatives may be more effective.
AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice Harris said that DTC advertising “inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
Advertising dollars spent by drug makers have increased by 30% over the last two years to $4.5 billion, according to the market research firm Kantar Media.
However, some believe an all-out ban of DTC advertising would impede the First Amendment rights of pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp said in a statement: “The AMA call for a ban on DTC advertising is a policy mistake and flies in the face of the First Amendment. Most importantly, patients and caregivers want and deserve up-to-date information on the availability of drugs.”
Industry group PhRMA has long called for full and fair information to be included in DTC ads that keep patients and health providers up to date on medical products.
The call for a ban comes as over the last two years, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has honed in on DTC ads and sought to figure out how they impact consumers.
Among other topics, FDA has studied how DTC ads make patients feel about a drug, how patients assess the benefits and risks of a drug from an ad, what would happen if there was a shift in the way risks are included in television ads and how magazines and newspapers can better inform consumers of drug risks.
As a Kaiser poll shows drug costs remain atop the public’s agenda, the new AMA policy on banning DTC ads is also meant to respond to concerns that anticompetitive behavior in a consolidated pharmaceutical market can increase drug prices.
The AMA says it will encourage actions by federal regulators to limit anticompetitive behavior from companies attempting to reduce competition from generic drugs through manipulation of patent protections and by abusing regulatory exclusivity incentives.
The association will also convene a physician task force and launch an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in drug prices and costs.
“Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments,” said Harris. “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 will also monitor pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions, as well as the impact of such actions on drug prices.