The statements endorsers include prominent medical school professors from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Stanford, Yale, Duke, University of California, San Francisco and other top medical schools, along with two former editors-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Commercial Alert wrote and organized the statement, and released it today.
Next week, Commercial Alert will present the statement to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in testimony at the FDA’s hearings on direct-to-consumer drug advertising. The statement follows.
Statement on Direct-to-Consumer Marketing of Prescription Drugs
Direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs should be prohibited.
In 2004, pharmaceutical companies spent more than $4 billion in an onslaught of advertising to promote prescription drugs. This advertising does not promote public health. It increases the cost of drugs and the number of unnecessary prescriptions, which is expensive to taxpayers, and can be harmful or deadly to patients.
For more than half a century, certain drugs have been available to patients only with a prescription, because all drugs, including those that can heal, can also cause harm. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals have the necessary training and experience to help them decide whether drugs are indicated in particular cases. This is why they make the prescription decision, not patients.
Prescription drug advertising pressures health professionals to prescribe particular medications, and often the ones that may be less effective and more expensive and dangerous. This intrudes in the relationship between medical professionals and patients, and disrupts the therapeutic process. It takes up valuable time to explain to patients why they may have been misled by the drug advertisements they have seen.
Prescription drug advertising is not educational. It is inherently misleading because it features emotive imagery and omits crucial information about drugs and their proper use, as well as about side effects and contraindications that can be found on the full FDA-approved label. Drug companies have an inherent and irredeemable financial conflict-of-interest which drives them to exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative qualities of their own products.
At a minimum, direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising should not existunless accompanied by the full FDA-approved label. Nor should drug ads be allowed to display imagery that is primarily emotive and not educational. Drug ads on TV and radio should be prohibited because they cannot meet this standard for truthfulness.