Doctors Call for Drug Advertising Ban, Reversing Their Position

AMA Seeks End to TV Commercials, Magazine Buys for Prescription Meds

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A TV commercial promoting Lyrica.
A TV commercial promoting Lyrica. Credit: Courtesy Pfizer

If media sellers thought TV mega-spenders DraftKings and FanDuel going wobbly would hurt, a whole new level of pain presented itself on Tuesday, when the American Medical Association said drug companies should stop advertising directly to consumers.

Pharmaceutical marketers in 2014 spent an estimated $4.8 billion on U.S. measured-media advertising, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

In a vote Tuesday at its annual meeting in Atlanta, the association called for an end to TV commercials and magazine spreads that pitch prescription drugs.

The ads often push patients to more expensive treatments and inflate demand for therapies, the AMA said.

That's a change from the AMA's previous position, which said the ads were fine as long as they were educational and accurate. The U.S. is one of the few countries that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads.

The vote "reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice Harris said in a statement announcing the vote result. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

The AMA has a membership of about 235,000 U.S. doctors and medical students. Last year, the group spent $19.7 million on lobbying the U.S. government, making it the No. 5 spender in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which works on behalf of the drug industry, spent $16.6 million last year.

Drugmakers say their ads can help patients learn more about diseases and their treatment options.

"Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising," Tina Stow, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, said by e-mail. "Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners."

-- Bloomberg News

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