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Drug advertising plan a placebo; real reform needed to ensure safety

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Drug Industry’s Voluntary DTC Plan is Placebo; Real Reform Needed to Ensure Accurate, Informative Drug Advertising

(Washington, D.C) – Today’s announcement by the pharmaceutical trade association of “voluntary principles” for direct-to-consumer advertising is a placebo that will have little impact on informing consumers about the real effectiveness of drugs or their possible safety risks, Consumers Union said today.
“It appears the pharmaceutical industry has produced a placebo rather than supporting real reform of drug advertising,” said Rob Schneider, director of Consumers Union’s prescription drug reform effort.
“Much of what the industry is proposing is already law, such as producing ads that aren’t misleading,” Schneider said. “What we clearly need is more authority and resources to ensure that all marketing, not just the amount spent on direct-to-consumer advertising, is honest and accurate.”
Because the pharmaceutical industry’s guidelines are voluntary, Schneider said the PhRMA proposal is primarily a goodwill gesture in hopes of calming rumblings in Congress to crack down on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) recently called for a two-year moratorium on advertisements for new drugs because of safety concerns. And a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Grassley and Dodd (S. 930) and supported by Consumers Union would require new drug ads for the first two years include improved risk communication to consumers, as well as other enhanced safety components in DTC advertising.
“Without a way to legally enforce these guidelines under law, it’s a good bet that the drug industry will continue giving short shrift to side effects and safety concerns in its advertising,” Schneider said. “Congress needs to act to ensure consumers and doctors know about all the potential safety problems with a drug, and not just the pretty picture industry wants to paint.”
Contact: Susan Herold, Rob Schneider, 202-462-6262