One of the current crop of Democratic White House hopefuls is vowing to outlaw direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medication.

Former Vermont governor Howard Dean this week told a town-hall meeting in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that he wants a near total ban on the growth DTC sector – a stricter line on the subject than he has taken to date.

"Since 1991, drug companies have increased their advertising to consumers from $55 million [€47.3m; £33.0m] to approximately $2 billion per year," declared Jones, who also happens to be a former physician.

"Occasionally, this advertising has a legitimate purpose of informing consumers about a new product that can benefit them. More commonly, it simply increases the demand for these products, dramatically increasing the nation's prescription drug bill.

"I support a ban on direct advertising of prescription drugs to consumers except for situations where there is a compelling public health justification for the advertising."

Other Democratic candidates – including Representative Richard Gephardt (Missouri) and Senator John Edwards (North Carolina) – have also spoken out against DTC advertising.

However, attempts to outlaw the practice will likely meet a stiff response from the ad industry.

Says Adonis Hoffman, senior vp and general counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies: "I understand Governor Dean's concerns, but all credible studies, including those from the Food and Drug Administration, Prevention magazine and the National Medical Association, which represents black doctors who serve minority patients, have concluded that there are considerable health benefits from the advertising. [A ban] would also raise serious constitutional issues."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff