American Medical Association Votes To Ban Prescription Drug Commercials

By John Lavitt 02/03/16

Pharmaceutical companies use advertisements to reduce competition from generic manufacturers of cheaper, similarly effective drugs.

American Medical Association Votes To Ban Prescription Drug Commercials
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The American Medical Association favors the banning of prescription drug commercials. Responding to massive advertising dollars being spent to promote prescription products, physicians at the Interim Meeting of the AMA adopted a new policy that recommends a ban on direct-to consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies. The physicians highlighted the belief that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives.

Besides New Zealand, the United States is the only country in the world that allows direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. According to the market research firm Kantar Media, advertising dollars spent by drugmakers have increased by 30% in the last two years to $4.5 billion. 

The new AMA policy will convene a physician task force to address the problem while also launching an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability. Beyond the ban on advertising, the advocacy campaign will also emphasize the necessity of choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate…Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments.” 

The goal of the new policy is to save consumers money while fostering greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs. Given the consolidated nature of the pharmaceutical marketplace, however, there have been grave concerns recently that anticompetitive behavior has led to an increase in drug prices. The AMA will encourage actions by federal regulators to limit anticompetitive behavior by pharmaceutical companies. Advertising is one way the pharmaceutical company has tried to reduce competition from generic manufacturers of less expensive, but just as effective drug regimens. The Fix commented on this trend of widespread prescription drug advertising during televised sporting events.

The American Medical Association will also monitor pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions, as well as the impact of such actions on drug prices. Finally, patent reform remains a key area for encouraging greater market-based competition because it opens the door to cheaper alternatives. The focus of the AMA’s efforts will be to reduce regulatory and statutory barriers to competition. Ultimately, the patent system should not be a barrier to providing people with quality healthcare. 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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