Earlier this month a group of senators introduced a bill that would eliminate tax deductions for Direct-to-Consumer prescription drug advertising. Led by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), the Protecting Americans from Drug Marketing Act was cosponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

"Doctors and medical professionals are in the best position to provide information to patients, not drug company advertisers aiming to make a profit," said Sen. Franken. 

In late February, Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced legislation in the House that would require a 3-year moratorium after a product launch on DTC advertising.

Separately, several media outlets picked up FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) latest research efforts on “whether animation influences the recall and perceptions of risk and benefit information in DTC ads.” FDA is also studying the effect of ad frequency on recall, and the effect of superimposed text, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb’s recent DTC ad for Opdivo, which shows the benefits of the drug on the side of buildings.

Our Take: Pharma is on the hot seat for a variety of reasons we’ve discussed in previous ActionBriefs, and it is of course an election year. DTC is an easy target, and to the apologists who trumpet its educational value, pharma wouldn’t do any branded promotion at all if the industry’s only goal was to inform the public.

But it’s important to keep the story in context. FDA has conducted studies on DTC advertising since the agency began allowing it. There are currently nearly 20 studies underway or seeking public comment. 

As for Sen. Franken, in 2009 he introduced a similar bill that never left committee. And other bills have been introduced to place a moratorium on DTC for some time after a product launch. In fact, every year someone or some group expresses outrage over the marketing practice, but those complaints never gain any traction.

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