Why Does The AMA Want To Rid TV Of Drug Ads?

By Brent McCluskey 11/24/15

Drug commercials potentially lead patients to seek drugs they really don't need.

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Could drug ads on TV soon be a thing of the past? If the American Medical Association (AMA) had their way, the answer would be absolutely “yes.”

The AMA recently voted in favor of banning television broadcasts of all prescription drug advertisements, including those for medical devices. The problem? Only Congress or the Food and Drug Administration have the power to ban drug-related advertising.

The AMA believes the flaw in these medication ads is they are leading to more people seeking unneeded drugs from doctors who otherwise wouldn’t prescribe them. The AMA also noted a 30% increase in money spent on ads in the past two years, which now totals $4.5 billion. On top of that, the price of prescription drugs went up at least 5%, meaning consumers may be spending money on medications they could potentially not need.

“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 Patrice A. Harris, AMA board chair-elect. “Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC) also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

But pharmaceutical companies disagree, stating that these advertisements help to start patient-doctor conversations that wouldn’t be happening otherwise.

“(DTC) advertising offer scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options,” said Tina Stow of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “The ads lead to important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place."

There’s no denying it’s nearly impossible to turn on the television these days and not see an ad for an antidepressant, sexual enhancement drug, or even a sleep medication. However, what usually catches most people’s attention is the long list of side effects, which typically prove to be nothing short of terrifying. Nonetheless, patients don’t seem to be swayed when it comes to trying prescription drugs.

Even if the AMA finds a way to get medication advertisements off the air, there’s no way of stopping people from catching the ads online thanks to social media.

“In the old days, DTC was the one way they tried to reach consumers,” said Steven Woloshin, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. “Even if you got rid of all the magazine ads and TV ads, there’s still a tremendous platform to reach consumers.”

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.