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FDA SOUNDS NEW TONE ON DTC ADS

Cites 'Troubling' Findings in New Study

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- The Food and Drug Administration, issuing a new research study about direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising, for the first time called some DTC effects "troubling."
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The agency said that "DTC advertising seems to increase awareness of conditions and treatments, motivate questions for the health care provider and help patients ask better questions."

'Troubling' effects
But in its summary, the FDA said, "It is clear, however, that DTC advertising also had effects that can be troubling," adding that half the physicians surveyed felt at least a little pressure to prescribe drugs that patients had asked for. The study also said that both patients and doctors say that DTC ads overstate drug efficacy and do not give a fair balance of drug risk and benefit information.

The "troubling" reference drew immediate reaction from ad groups in Washington.

"I am troubled they used the word 'troubling' in light of the fact that overwhelming on balance this report is positive," said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertising. "If you study anything there are some upsides and some downsides. A fair reading of the data in this case would have used a generally more positive approach. They are giving disproportionate weight to the downside. If they had said 'room for improvement' ... but 'troubling' suggests more than that. Still, it shouldn't put us into panic mode."

Overall good news?
But Dick O'Brien, executive vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said the report overall is good news.

"My bottom line is that if the good news is that DTC leads to more knowledgeable discussion between doctors and patients, and the bad is that doctors have to spend a few more minutes putting DTC in the proper perspective, it seems to only be bad for HMOs," he said. "I read this report and say DTC is delivering a benefit to the health of the nation, and more time with doctors is a small price to pay for getting a richer experience. The trade-off is worth it."

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