By Jill Zorn
Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro has introduced a bill called the “Responsibility in Drug Advertising Act,” which calls for a three-year moratorium on direct-to-consumer advertising of new medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This all in an effort “to fight the rising cost of prescription drugs and protect consumers from misleading information.”
Although direct-to-consumer advertising is far from the only cause of rising prescription drug prices, it makes for an excellent target. Most countries ban this form of advertising — only the United States and New Zealand allow it.
While eliminating these ads altogether would be preferable, starting with a moratorium on advertising of new drugs makes sense. Newer drugs tend to be more expensive. They can also turn out to be unsafe, as some dangerous side effects don’t become evident until more people take the medications.
As one physician commentator put it:
These ads waste money through unnecessary prescriptions (and) lost appointment times for drugs the patient does not need… Companies advertise the latest and most expensive drugs when in many cases, older pharmaceuticals that are available in less expensive generic form may be just as good, if not better.
Last month, Rep. DeLauro, accompanied by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, explained her bill at an event in Stratford, emphasizing that “…we should allow informed medical professionals, not advertising executives, to guide our health care spending.”
Lembo, who oversees the state employee health plan, concurred by saying, “Strong federal action will give patients and health plans like ours broad protection against aggressive and unsafe drug marketing.”
As pharmaceutical companies spend an outrageous $4.5 billion a year on these wasteful, harmful (and I might add annoying) ads, we can only hope that Congress will take action on this bill.
We’ll soon be writing about some state-level legislation that is being considered to address the problem of unaffordable medications.