AMA Calls for DTC Advertising Ban

Nov. 17, 2015 — The American Medical Association (AMA) announced today that it would support an advertising ban on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising in an effort to make prescription drugs more affordable and address member concerns regarding “the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” The drastic measure was passed Nov. 16 at the group’s 2015 Interim Meeting in Atlanta.

“The AMA call for a ban on DTC advertising is a policy mistake and flies in the face of the First Amendment. Most importantly, patients and caregivers want and deserve up-to-date information on the availability of drugs,” said Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “The days of Dr. Kildare being the exclusive source of information about health and medicine have come and gone.  Beyond that, a ban on speech would violate the spirit and letter of the First Amendment right of companies to tell the truth about their products and services.”

Additionally, Kamp explained that DTC advertising plays the following roles in the healthcare system:

  • DTC helps patients and caregivers recognize symptoms and possible solutions for health issues.  Indeed, one of the AMA dissenters to the new policy pointed out the role of early antidepressant advertising to help patients recognize their difficulty and seek medical help.
  • DTC currently is the most aggressively regulated advertising available. This is clear from the careful and lengthy side effect disclosures in every broadcast ad. Eliminating these ads would keep consumers in the dark about both the benefits and side effects of medicines.
  • Numerous studies have demonstrated that patients who seek out information and have robust conversations with their doctors are more likely to adhere to directions and achieve better health results.
  • The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and its members closely follow a DTC advertising code of self-regulation that emphasizes full and fair balanced information, as well as a delay in the commencement of consumer advertising until professionals have had an opportunity to learn about new drugs.

According to an AMA press release that cites a 30-percent increase in drug advertising dollars over the past two years, the new policy “responds to deepened concerns that anticompetitive behavior in a consolidated pharmaceutical marketplace has the potential to increase drug prices.” The AMA also will convene a physician task force and launch an advocacy campaign “to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs.”

“The industry has to communicate more clearly the bullet points raised above, as well as promote the fact that DTC advertising is not responsible for huge increases in drug pricing,” Kamp said. “Bottom line, DTC has positive effects on patient care.”