AMA Urges End to Direct-to-Consumer Advertising for Prescription Drugs

The American Medical Association (AMA) this week called for an end to direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices, according to CBS News. The ads contribute to increasing costs, and lead to patient demand for inappropriate treatment, the group says.

“Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” AMA Board Member Dr. Patrice Harris said in a news release. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

Drug manufacturers spent $4.5 billion for ads in the last two years, a 30 percent increase, according to the AMA. Prices for prescription drugs rose almost 5 percent this year, the article notes.

“Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patients’ health plan,” Harris said. She noted ads encourage the use of newer brand-name drugs, when lower-cost medications may be just as effective. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate,” she said.

The trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says direct-to-consumer ads provide “scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options.” Spokesperson Tina Stow said the ads also encourage patients to visit their doctor “for important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place.”

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    Ross Fishman, Ph.D.

    November 19, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    The recommendation for an end to direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices is an excellent idea and needs additional support. In addition to the AMA’s concern that these ads lead to increasing costs and inappropriate requests for medications, my concern is related to the larger message that if a medication is prescribed, it must be OK to take. This is, in part, what influences abusers of pain medications. Why are prescription drugs perceived as safe to take? One only needs to observe the television commercials for numerous medications. After a brief intro about a product’s benefits, a long list of frightening side effects that may include bleeding, heart attack, stroke, leaky rectum and even death are stated, ending with the message that your doctor prescribes them because the benefits outweigh the risks. Viewers of all ages hear and see these messages that downplay the dangerous side effects. So why not try them? Mom and Dad do.

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