Senate Rejects US Drug Marketing Curbs

27 June 2003

America’s Senate has rejected a bid to curb the $2.3 billion (€2.0bn; £1.4bn) direct-to-consumer drug advertising industry.

Introduced by senators John Edwards (Democrat, North Carolina) and Tom Harkin (Democrat, Iowa), an amendment to a Medicare prescription scheme would have practically destroyed broadcast DTC advertising, lobby groups claim.

The amendment would have forced such ads to compare the drug’s effectiveness with that of competitors and give equal prominence to its side effects and benefits.

Defending the curbs before fellow senators, Edwards blasted the motives of DTC ads. “Does anyone think drug ads today [are] about educating consumers rather than marketing?” he fumed.

“There is nothing wrong with marketing and persuasion in most contexts … But prescription drugs are different. These are matters of life and death. Advertisements for these products should be held to a much higher standard. They should educate not just market.”

Fortunately for the DTC industry, senators did not agree, rejecting the amendment by 69 votes to 26. Edwards then vowed to propose a more limited amendment.

Following the vote, the Association of National Advertisers warned drug companies there might be further threats to these ads. “I don't think we are out of the woods completely, but it gives a signal,” declared executive vp Dan Jaffe.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff