GE Medical System’s New In-Hospital TV Network Raises Concerns about Rx Drug Advertising
The Patient Channel, a new in-hospital television network that was launched yesterday to 50,000 patients, could become a "flash point" in the debate over the "propriety of drug sellers taking their products directly to the public," the Wall Street Journal reports. The 24-hour network, owned by GE Medical Systems and projected to reach some 22 million hospital patients annually by 2003, features segments such as "Cancer-Related Fatigue" and "Breathe Easy: Allergies and Asthma" in between "commercials trumpeting pharmaceuticals and other consumer products." Much to the "ire" of consumer groups, the network has been "actively wooing" drug makers for advertising dollars, the Journal reports. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said, "Giving drug companies access to the hospital bed is a huge step backward," adding, "It's a worrisome trend." Lurie and other advocates are concerned patients will link drug advertisements featured on the channel with a hospital endorsement. Dr. Sharon Allison Ottey, a geriatric and internal medicine specialist, said, "An ad shown in a hospital room may cause the patient to trust it more than they should. It may be a bit unbalanced because a patient is in a vulnerable position -- it's not the same as a person sitting at home." But Peter McCabe, global general manager for educational products at GE Medical, said that a "nurse or a doctor will have the ability to talk with a patient and consult about what the ads are for," adding, "[P]atients can flip the channel and see the exact same drug ad on another channel." McCabe said the company plans to ensure that the "line between advertising and editorial is well guarded," the Journal reports. The company will use an "ethical advisory board" of eight physicians to screen the channel's content and prospective advertising (Vranica, Wall Street Journal, 9/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.