ANA Rejects Commercial Alert’s FDA Petition to End Prescription Drug Advertising
The ANA strongly opposes the call of Commercial Alert and a number of medical school professors for an end to DTC prescription drug advertising.
We believe that the Commercial Alert proposal is radical, misguided and unconstitutional. DTC advertising provides tremendous benefits to consumers and promotes public health. FDA studies have found that more than 24 million Americans have discussed a health issue with their doctor for the first time after seeing a prescription drug ad.
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The ANA is responding to a petition of medical school professors organized by Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group that opposes “commercialism” and the marketing of a wide array of products and services. The petition called for an end to all broadcast ads for prescription drug products.
The views expressed by these medical school professors certainly do not provide a balanced representation of the opinions of the medical community about DTC advertising. In the last several years, for example, identical proposals to ban DTC ads have been put forward at the annual meetings of the American Medical Association and have been uniformly defeated.
A recent FDA survey of physicians concluded that a majority of doctors believe that DTC advertising can play a positive role in their interactions with their patients. The FDA survey found that 89% of the doctors surveyed believe DTC advertising made patients more involved in their health care; 85% believed their patients were more likely to use their prescriptions properly because of the ads; 69% felt the ads encouraged hard to reach patients to seek assistance.
Consumers have a right to information about their healthcare and a right to ask their doctors about new treatments for medical conditions. The FDA already has the power and the responsibility to block any false or deceptive DTC ads.
We reject the call of Commercial Alert to turn back the clock to the days when patients were paternalistically kept in the dark about their health options. The CDC has found that millions of Americans suffer from serious or life-threatening undiagnosed health threats. DTC advertising is a proven way to reach these high-risk groups. Denying this critical information would be harmful, not helpful, for consumers. It would also violate the First Amendment. While Commercial Alert may not like it, the First Amendment protects DTC advertising.