Coalition Arms Industry with Tool Kit to Defend DTC Advertising

Dec. 14, 2015 – With medical marketing being targeted by politicians and the media as one cause of high drug prices, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication is helping its members take action against this claim by providing them with a direct-to-consumer (DTC) Tool Kit that includes talking points and other informational resources.

“The public and politicians are concerned about drug prices and uneasy about drug marketing. Respecting that reality, the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and The Advertising Coalition are working hard in policy circles to tell a more complete story and fend off further regulation,” said Coalition Executive Director John Kamp in a recent column in Med Ad News.

“To correct misinformation about DTC advertising that is flooding the airwaves and print media, the Coalition wanted to give its members the tools they need to be effective,” Kamp said. “We need to fight the implication that DTC advertising is a bad thing, when in fact it has been proven to prompt patient conversations with their doctors, increase treatment of undertreated conditions and improve medication adherence.”

The Coalition DTC Tool Kit includes talking points developed in response to a recent call by the American Medical Association (AMA) for a ban on DTC advertising, as follows:

  • DTC helps patients and caregivers recognize symptoms and possible solutions for health issues.
  • DTC currently is the most aggressively regulated advertising available.
  • 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.

From the AMA’s position to presidential hopefuls naming the drug industry as an enemy, there is no question that DTC will continue to be scrutinized. A recent editorial in The New York Times summarized the AMA’s ban and discussed possible “solutions” short of a ban, including proposals to tax the ads, use public funds to promote non-drug methods, such as diet and exercise, to treat certain conditions, or develop a “television control device” to allow consumers to block drug ads. Another proposal calls for Congress to ban DTC advertising for the first two years after a drug is approved.

PhRMA countered that editorial a few days later, noting that much of the Times piece is “sparsely informed,” and stating that although the editorial board mentioned a survey finding that the public wants the FDA to review DTC broadcast ads before they air, it fails to state that the FDA “does in fact already regulate ads.” PhRMA also states that FDA’s own research concluded that “DTC advertising seems to increase [patients’] awareness of conditions and treatments, motivate questions for the healthcare provider, and help patients ask better questions.”

The Coalition’s DTC Tool Kit provides links to both of these documents, as well as to Coalition articles, academic journal articles, and Constitutional analyses of the industry’s First Amendment right to communicate truthful and non-misleading information about their products.

In a Dec. 8 “Industry Leaders Alert” to Coalition members, Kamp explained that any changes in DTC policy would require legislative action, but also noted that although the current discussions appear focused on broadcast DTC ads, “legislative proposals most often seek to dampen ALL drug advertising and promotion.”

He added that “politicians proposing limits on marketing are paying close attention to public opinion polls that reflect significant concerns about pricing and lesser-but-articulated concerns about the role of marketing in pricing and inappropriate use.” The materials in the Coalition DTC Tool Kit, he said, “respond to those concerns.”