The members of the American Medical Association recently voted to call for an end to all direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising. The AMA had previously approved of advertising, as long as it was accurate and educational.
AAF believes the AMA should have stayed with its previous position. Far from being harmful, AAF believes that pharmaceutical advertising has provided a great benefit to consumers and public health. By raising awareness of products available to treat many medical conditions pharmaceutical advertising has resulted in countless patients making appointments with their doctors to learn more.
According to an AMA statement, “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when those drugs may not be appropriate.” However, patients can only legitimately receive medications when they are prescribed by their doctors who are the trusted advisor, in a position to explain what drugs or alternative treatments are the most appropriate.
While some physicians may not like having to tell a patient why a particular drug is not right for them, many of those conversations would not take place at all without advertising, and many of those patients would be left with untreated conditions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has powerful tools to censure any prescription drug advertiser that goes over the line in marketing a product. Many pharmaceutical companies often voluntarily work with the FDA prior to an advertisement’s release to insure that all claims are accurate and fair.
A ban on DTC advertising is also unconstitutional. Pharmaceutical advertising is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits bans on commercial speech. The Supreme Court has affirmed that commercial speech – as long as it is truthful and about a legal product or service – is protected speech.