Ban Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads, AMA Says

November 17, 2015

The American Medical Association (AMA) took a stand in the national debate on affordable drug prices when the group's House of Delegates today called for a ban of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices.

Delegates said that DTC ads boost demand for costly treatments as opposed to less expensive, but clinically effective alternatives, according to an AMA news release on the House of Delegates meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

In addition, patients may ask their physician to prescribe advertised drugs "even when these drugs may not be appropriate," said Patrice Harris, MD, chair-elect of the AMA board of directors.

The association noted that the United States and New Zealand are the only countries that permit DTC advertising for prescription drugs, and quoted research firm Kantar Media as saying that pharmaceutical companies have increased their ad spending by 30% over the past 2 years, to $4.5 billion.

"Ultimately, the goal of advertising is to drive choice and demand for a product, not educate," an AMA summary of House of Delegate testimony stated, "although some patients may [be] prompted to visit a physician based on increased awareness of a specific disease mentioned."

PhRMA, the trade group for pharmaceutical manufacturers, doesn't buy the AMA's thinking. In a statement emailed to Medscape Medical News, PhRMA spokesperson Tina Stow said that the goal of DTC advertising is "providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their healthcare and treatment options."

"Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners," Stow said.

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