WASHINGTON DC: US pharma companies, already under siege by legislators over their direct-to-consumer advertising, face even tougher regulation. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives is demanding a three year ban on DTC ads for new medicines.

The bill also proposes a labelling system requiring packaging to alert consumers if the drug is new to the market. Its provisions are tougher than the bill put forward by a group of senators which demands a relatively benign two-year ban on ads.

Both, however, dictate clearance of medicines by the Food and Drug Administration.

As expected, pharma firms and their marketing agencies are nervous for the prospects of the $4.5 billion (€3.38bn; £2.29bn) DTC ad industry as Congress renews the program that requires companies to help pay for FDA review of their products [WARC News: 15-Jan-07].

Comments lobbyist Jim Davison: "If a two-year moratorium is bad idea, a three-year [period] is worse. What is the government's interest in grabbing away truthful and non-misleading advertising?"

He adds: "If we believe that information helps consumers and helps them to do positive things, then how do we justify taking information away from them? It seems to be counterintuitive."

Drug industry body PhRMA says companies are committed to providing accurate educational information and that the group's self-regulatory guidelines, adopted in July 2005, are working. A new accountability report tracking the impact of the changes is due within the next few weeks.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff