US Medics Drop Attempt to Block DTC Drug Ads

06 June 2006

The brawny American Medical Association has opted not to seek a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

It emerged Monday that a report from the AMA's board of trustees (to be delivered at the body's annual meeting this month) calls for modifications to the present DTC rules but no ban.

The sigh of relief from could be heard all the way from Big Pharma's US backyard of Wilmington, Delaware to Ulan Bator.

Exhaled one vp-marketing for a major drug company: "That's good news. The AMA is powerful, and if it had supported a DTC ban I think it would have had some repercussions down the road."

The AMA report cites the right to commercial free speech embedded in the First Amendment to the US Constitution: "It is [consequently] very unlikely that DTC will be prohibited in this country. Therefore, the goal should be to make DTC better and more useful for its audience, the consumers of this country who also are our patients."

The document makes thirteen recommendations and modifications to existing policy, including asking for a moratorium on advertising newly approved drugs until physicians have been appropriately educated.

However, there is a dichotomy of opinion as to the length of the moratorium - ranging from six to twenty-four months. The actual term, recommends the AMA report, should be left to the Food and Drug Administration.

"The length of the moratorium may vary from drug to drug, depending on various factors. [For example] the innovative nature of the drug; the severity of the disease that the drug is intended to treat; the availability of alternative therapies; and the intensity and timeliness of the education about the drug for physicians who are most likely to prescribe it."

The report will not become official AMA policy until formally adopted by the 544-member House of Delegates at the body's annual meeting 10-14 June in Chicago.

A smooth passage is not guaranteed.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff