Family doctors in the US are being urged to support a ban on drug advertising to consumers.

The powerful American Medical Association, which represents 250,000 physicians, is being asked by its members to back legislation that would limit TV commercials and print ads targeted at consumers once drugs are approved in the US.

Doctors attending the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago are deeply unhappy at the pharmaceutical industry's $4 billion (€3.26bn; £2.18bn) yearly ad spend. They claim the ads persuade consumers to seek medications they don't need and fail to sufficiently point out risks.

The AMA claimed a significant victory last week when pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb unilaterally declared a moratorium on direct marketing to consumers of its new drugs until they have been on the market for a year [WAMN: 16-Jun-05].

Many doctors believe legislation would run up against legal challenges, but they are in favour of voluntary restrictions.

Dr Paul Antony, chief medical officer for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told AMA members that drug ads had improved awareness of diseases and encouraged patients to see their doctors.

Antony also cited the voluntary code of regulation to be unveiled by PhRMA next month. However, this is unlikely to contain restrictions like those announced by Bristol-Myers.

Data sourced from Chicago Tribune; additional content from WARC staff