Medical Profession Evaluates DTC Advertising

CHICAGO The American Medical Association will study direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising before taking a position on whether the practice should continue as it stands or be altered in some way.

The study, which is likely to take as long as a year, will look at how DTC advertising affects the doctor-patient relationship, whether the advertising has any educational value, how they affect consumer decisions and cost implications of the advertising. A recommendation about what position the AMA should take will come at next year’s annual convention, according to an AMA representative.

decision to study the issue came at the organization’s annual meeting this week in Chicago. Among some of the issues to be studied are whether DTC advertising leads to unnecessary prescriptions, and whether a ban or moratorium on such advertising should be endorsed.

“Research clearly indicates that direct-to-consumer advertising increases the demand for specific medication,” said AMA Trustee Cyril M. Hetsko, M.D., in a statement. “We will study the overall effect of this advertising on patient care and consider strategies that could minimize its potential negative impact.”

DTC advertising has become a hot button issue recently as several drugs have been pulled from the market. Last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb said it would impose a one-year moratorium on consumer advertising after a drug’s approval. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Research Association is also crafting guidelines for DTC advertising. Those guidelines, which will be announced next month, are not expected to include a moratorium on advertising.

Drug companies spent more than $4 billion on DTC advertising last year and nearly $1 billion during the first quarter of 2005, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.