Meeting in Chicago last week, the American Medical Association House of Delegates passed a resolution to “petition the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to ban the advertising of prescription drugs to the general public.”
The practice of major pharmaceutical companies using direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, or DTCA, has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Many medical professionals believe that this advertising has led to an increase in unnecessary prescriptions, which has led to a further escalation of health care costs. Others, including the drug companies, counter that DTCA advertising has helped make consumers aware of health care options and helped empower patients to find the best medical care possible.
Both sides in this debate have valid points. However, considering the state of health care in the United States where high cost has become the central issue, the relationship between the dramatic rise in prescription drug usage and drug advertising deserves an additional look from the FDA and FTC.
Informing consumers is legitimate, and fostering communication in the patient-physician relationship is good, but slick advertising for prescription pharmaceuticals is unnecessary.
An outright ban on DTCA advertising is not a reasonable solution to this problem. Restraint is needed in this situation, and unfortunately, it appears that the only way to achieve that will be from federal scrutiny and possibly regulation.