AMA Gives Up Push to Ban DTC Drug Ads

Group Calls for Changes in $4 Billion Industry but Won't Prohibit Popular Strategy

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NEW YORK ( -- The pharmaceutical industry is breathing a sigh of relief that the American Medical Association has opted not to call for a ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

The $4.1 billion industry was sweating six resolutions drafted at last year's AMA annual meeting regarding DTC ads -- two of which asked members to support a total ban. But a responding report from the group's board of trustees to be delivered at the AMA's annual meeting this month calls for modifications but no ban.

'Good news'
"That's good news," said one VP-marketing for a major pharmaceutical company. "The AMA is powerful, and if it had supported a DTC ban I think it would have had some repercussions down the road."

The report notes that "because of rights afforded to commercial speech by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it is very unlikely that DTC will be prohibited in this country. Therefore, the goal should be to make DTC better and more useful for its audience, the consumers of this country who also are our patients."

The report makes 13 recommendations and modifications to existing policy, including asking for a moratorium on advertising newly approved drugs until physicians have been appropriately educated.

But while some have suggested anywhere from six months to two years as a time interval, the AMA report leaves it up to the Food and Drug Administration to determine the moratorium.

Length of moratorium
"The length of the moratorium may vary from drug to drug, depending on various factors," the report stated, such as "the innovative nature of the drug; the severity of the disease that the drug is intended to treat; the availability of alternative therapies; and the intensity and timeliness of the education about the drug for physicians who are most likely to prescribe it."

An AMA spokeswoman said any part of the report can change prior to the annual meeting, which runs June 10-14 in Chicago. More than 250 reports will be presented at the conference, and none are considered official AMA policy until approved by the 544-member House of Delegates.
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