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(May 21, 2001) -- An advertising coalition is urging caution the day before a Senate committee is slated to look into questions about whether the recent increase in direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is increasing drugs costs or driving up the price of health care.

As direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs tops $2 billion, up from almost nothing in five years, the Association of National Advertisers is warning that an examination of advertising costs alone isn't a fair look at the effect on health costs.

In a letter to Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill., chairman of the Consumer Affairs subcommittee, the ANA warns that increased advertising costs need to be balanced against the savings to consumers in health spending because patients seek treatment earlier thanks to the advertising.

The letter from the ANA also suggests that curbs on truthful statements about drugs raise major First Amendment questions and are unwarranted because consumers still need a doctor's prescription for any of the medication. -- Ira Teinowitz

Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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