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Drug effectiveness research results should be on DTC ads

CU supports bill by Sen. Reed to clearly report in advertisements and labeling the results of comparing a drug's effectiveness

February 25, 2009

The Honorable Jack Reed
United States Senate

Dear Senator Reed:

Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly endorses your legislation, the “Informed Medical Decision-making Act.” We believe your legislation would be a major improvement in consumer awareness and understanding of the relative value of various medicines and devices. Your proposal will empower consumer-patients to seek the best possible medicine or device.

By requiring that the results of taxpayers’ investment in comparative effectiveness research be clearly and simply reported in direct-to-consumer advertising and in the products’ labeling, your bill will ensure that every American has a chance to be a good healthcare consumer and shopper. Over time, the information from comparative effectiveness will save consumers and society billions and billions of dollars while improving the quality of care.

For the past four years, Consumers Union has been providing the type of service your bill will promote. In our Best Buy Drugs program, we take the very technical comparative effectiveness findings from Oregon Health and Sciences University’s Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP) and make them easily understandable to the general public. We also match the hard scientific data with information about the prices of the various alternatives, and then make a recommended ‘best buy.’ Of course, we very strongly recommend that all these decisions be in consultation with one’s personal physician, and we note that not all medicines and treatments work the same way for everyone and that patients need to be flexible about their choices. Millions of people have used our free Best Buy Drugs program.

Despite the success of our program, we cannot begin to reach all 300 million Americans. Your legislation, on the other hand, would present clear, simple easy-to-understand data in DTC ads and drug packaging, thus greatly expanding the public’s awareness of which products are the most effective.

We look forward to working with you on the enactment of this very important consumer legislation.

William Vaughan
Health Policy Analyst
Consumers Union