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Congress must ensure drug ads accurately inform of risks

Congress must ensure drug ads accurately inform of risks
Pharma’s proposed ‘voluntary’ code won’t do the job

Monday, May 9, 2005
(Washington, D.C.) – A proposed pharmaceutical industry “Code of Conduct” for direct-to-consumer advertising can’t ensure consumers will get clear information and be informed of possible drug safety risks that legislation pending in the Senate would require, Consumers Union said today.
“Whenever the spotlight is turned on the drug industry for playing fast and loose with the facts, it responds by claiming it will police itself. We know that doesn’t work,” said Rob Schneider, manager of a project of Consumers Union to improve drug safety and prices. “Our nation’s public safety is too important to rely on the goodwill of the drug industry.”
“Drug ads are the bread and butter of the pharmaceutical industry,” Schneider said. “Can we really expect drug makers to voluntary tell us about possible problems in these ads when they know it will hurt their sales?”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) reportedly is considering a code of conduct for its members this fall that would give principles on advertising. The industry plan would be entirely voluntary.
Consumers Union is supporting bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate by Sens. Grassley (R-IA) and Dodd (D-CT) and that would require companies to pre-submit ads to the Food and Drug Administration for all new drugs up to two years following their approval, and to require new safety disclosures.
The senators also introduced legislation that would require drug makers to register and make public the results of all their clinical drug trials, to ensure the public knows about possible harmful side effects. PhRMA last year introduced a members’ code to voluntarily post information on all new clinical trials to an industry Web site. A recent news report found that by January 2005, drug companies had voluntarily posted clinical trials for 26 drugs out of thousands of drugs studied in clinical trials since 2002. PHrMA also has promised its members will begin posting to a government Web site in July.
“The drug industry hasn’t voluntarily made public its clinical trial studies, even though it has promised it would. Promises aren’t good enough when it comes to our safety.” Schneider said.
Read Consumers Union previous statement from January 6, 2005: Voluntary drug trial registry won’t ensure prescription drug safety.
Contact: Susan Herold, 202-462-6262