The change in its policy was expected but still fell short of two resolutions introduced at last year's conference that asked for the AMA to call for an outright ban on DTC advertising. A report from the group's board of trustees delivered to the 544 delegates at the convention declined to ask for such a ban.
"A temporary moratorium on DTC advertising of prescribed drugs and medical devices will benefit both the patient and physician," said AMA President-Elect Dr. Ronald M. Davis. "Physicians will have the opportunity to become better educated on the pros and cons of prescription drug uses before prescribing them, and will be better able to determine when they are best suited for their patients' medical needs."
Additional DTC guidelines
In addition to the moratorium on newly approved drugs (the time interval is to be determined by the Food and Drug Administration), the AMA adopted additional guidelines for DTC ads. The guidelines state the ads should provide objective information about drug benefits that reflect the drug's true efficacy as determined by clinical trials; show fair balance between the benefits and risks of advertised drugs by providing comparable time or space and cognitive accessibility, and by presenting warnings, precautions and potential adverse reactions in a clear and understandable way without distraction of content; clearly indicate that the ad is for a prescription drug and refer patients to their physician for more information and appropriate treatment; be targeted for age-appropriate audiences; and receive pre-approval from the FDA.
Much of this ground was already covered with the introduction of the voluntary DTC guidelines issued by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America last August.
Nonetheless, the AMA's new policy was criticized by one group.
'Dr. Kildare is dead'
"AMA's vision of a DTC moratorium looks like government censorship, not patient empowerment, free speech or enlightened public policy," said John Kamp, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition for Healthcare Communication. "Dr. Kildare is dead. Patients now expect the information that respects their partnership in vital medical decision-making."
In addition to its policy on DTC, the AMA passed a resolution to end alcohol advertising during college sports broadcasts, and to work with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and college athletic conferences as they negotiate broadcast rights contracts.
"Promoting alcohol use to young adults is irresponsible," said AMA Board Member Dr. J. James Rohack. "Eliminating these ads during college sports broadcasts is a step toward fighting the increasing alcohol usage among this age group."