AMA Weighs Support for Moratorium on Direct-To-Consumer Drug Advertising
The American Medical Association during its annual meeting in Chicago on Sunday weighed whether to support proposed federal legislation that would impose a moratorium to delay direct-to-consumer drug advertising after drugs are approved by FDA, the Chicago Tribune reports. According to the Tribune, several state and national medical groups within AMA -- which represents about 250,000 physicians -- support such a moratorium.
Doctors who testified Sunday said DTC advertising by drug companies increases the number of prescriptions for potentially harmful drugs for people who do not need them. Most doctors testified in favor of a moratorium on DTC advertising that would allow doctors several months after a drug's approval to discuss its safety and efficacy with patients. Some doctors at the meeting noted that a moratorium likely would encounter significant legal challenges from advertisers and media companies.
The motion comes after FDA in 1997 eased restrictions on DTC advertising. Since 1998, spending on consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies has quadrupled to $4 billion annually. Concerns about FDA post-market regulation of approved drugs also increased after the withdrawal of Merck's Vioxx from the U.S. market last September following safety concerns.
At the AMA meeting, representatives from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spoke to doctors. Paul Antony, chief medical officer for PhRMA, told AMA members that drug advertising has improved consumer awareness and encouraged patients to see their doctors. Antony also said the industry next month will implement a voluntary code of conduct for drug advertising.
PhRMA spokesperson Ken Johnson said a voluntary moratorium would leave specific time limits to the discretion of the drug companies. Last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced a voluntary delay on DTC advertising for the company's drugs for at least one year after approval. BMS spokesperson Brian Henry said the move is intended to "make sure physicians have a good comfort level and understanding (of the company's) medicines before they get the request for patients for certain medicines" (Japsen, Chicago Tribune, 6/20).
In related news, AMA members at the meeting also passed a resolution that opposes the taxation of cosmetic procedures such as face-lifts and Botox injections. The resolution, which was passed without debate, stated that taxing cosmetic procedures "sets a troubling precedent for the taxation of additional medical procedures."
The AMA House of Delegates is expected to give final approval to the resolution later this week (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 6/20).
Two other newspapers on Monday published articles related to drug advertising. Summaries appear below.
Detroit Free Press: The article examines moves by drug manufacturers to impose voluntary restrictions on drug advertising following "public outcry" that the drug industry does not sufficiently identify risks and side effects in advertisements (Merx/Stringer, Detroit Free Press, 6/20).
- Los Angeles Times: In the article, the Times examines how legislators, patients and consumers are participating in a national debate over "how, when and even whether" drug manufacturers should advertise directly to consumers (Healy, Los Angeles Times, 6/20).