PHARMACEUTICALS: Industry CEO Defends DTC Advertising
In a Washington Post op-ed titled "No Caveats, Emptor," Schering-Plough Corp. CEO Richard Kogan defends direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs as an expansion of consumer-empowering access to information. He accuses consumer advocates, physicians' organizations and managed care companies of mounting a "broader strategy to turn back the clock on recent [Food and Drug Administration] efforts to give consumers more information and choice about the drugs they take and to influence the congressional health care agenda for 1999." Kogan says that "opposition to the advertising is a slap at reforms that have given consumers one more source of information that is independent of the government or large medical enterprises." He criticizes as "absurd" the practice of panning advertising prescription drugs but not ads that promote over-the-counter remedies, noting that "[m]ost adverse reactions to drugs occur because of the misuse or overuse of [OTC] products." He writes that for "every anecdote about a hypochondriac demanding a new drug, there is the individual who alerts his or her doctor to a chronic illness before it becomes severe or fatal." Kogan concludes, "Critics have turned a far- fetched worry that 'if people start believing they can make medical decisions they will hurt themselves' into a scheme to dictate to consumers what kinds of information they should and should not use. Drug ads do not threaten the public health; they only threaten those whose control of the health care agenda rests on the belief that consumers are too stupid and guileless to be advocates for their own health. ... What patients don't know can hurt them" (12/20).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.