Washington Times Examines Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertisements
The Washington Times on Friday examined the effect of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertisements on physicians and patients. In a survey of 1,300 physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital released this week, 80% of respondents said that DTC ads do not present "balanced health information" and could lead "patients to seek unnecessary treatment." In addition, according to the survey, although 70% of respondents said that DTC ads could help to educate patients or "stimulate discussion during a consultation," only 40% said that such ads had a "positive effect on patient or doctor," the Times reports. The survey also found that only 5% of respondents would prescribe medications requested by patients when other, more effective treatments are available. The number of DTC ads has increased since 1997, when FDA lifted a moratorium on televised prescription drug ads. Pharmaceutical companies last year spent $2.6 billion on ads last year, an increase from $51 million in 1991. According to the Times, pharmaceutical industry analysts "still are trying to figure out when these ads are helpful or misleading pitches." In February, FDA issued proposed voluntary guidelines that would encourage pharmaceutical companies to list potential side effects in non-technical language and in larger print in DTC print ads (Harper, Washington Times, 4/30). Under the proposed guidelines, pharmaceutical companies could include the three to five most common, nonserious potential side effects in the ads, rather than the technical descriptions of all potential side effects required for product labels; however, the ads would "still have to provide all of the warnings, contraindications and major precautions" (California Healthline, 2/5).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.