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DTC Drug Ads Under Fire

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NEW YORK Commercial Alert has collected the endorsement of 211 medical school professors for a proposed ban on all direct-to-consumer drug advertising, the organization said today.

The watchdog group said it would present the petition to the Food and Drug Administration, which starts a DTC rules review on Nov. 1.

The professors' statement posits that DTC advertising "intrudes" on the doctor-patient relationship by inviting the latter to insist on being prescribed branded medicines. Doctors then must take time explaining to patients why those brands may not be the best drugs for them, the statement says.

The documents claims further that such DTC ads are "inherently misleading," especially on TV and radio, because they feature emotive imagery and dialogue instead of hard facts.

Those signing the statement include professors at schools such as Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia.

The statement includes this fallback position: "At a minimum, direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising should not exist unless accompanied by the full FDA-approved label. Nor should drug ads be allowed to display imagery that is primarily emotive and not educational. Drug ads on TV and radio should be prohibited because they cannot meet this standard for truthfulness."

That position dovetails with the FDA's expressed interest in discussing whether TV is an appropriate vehicle for drug advertising.

Commercial Alert has long been a critic of DTC advertising, which, it says, "increases the cost of drugs and the number of unnecessary prescriptions, which is expensive to taxpayers, and can be harmful or deadly to patients."

Commercial Alert is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere."