Edwards Proposes Curbs on Drug Ads

WASHINGTON, D.C. Sen. John Edwards, D-S.C., on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require prescription drug ads to include “balanced” information about a treatment’s benefits and side effects. The measure also requires the National Institutes of Health to study the effectiveness of prescription drugs against similar products on the market.

The legislation calls for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to expedite the review of drug ads so that misleading executions are not allowed on the air. Edwards asserts that under the current process, by the time the Food and Drug Administration orders a drug ad off the air, the campaign has already ended.

“By tackling wasteful and misleading consumer advertising, we will be able to lower drug costs for all Americans,” Edwards said. “Drug companies try to convince us that their high prices ensure innovation. The reality is they’re spending millions on ads for drugs that are nearly identical to ones already on the market.”

Edwards introduced similar legislation last year as an amendment to the Medicare prescription drug bill, but the effort failed.

Earlier this year, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a bill that would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs in Canada. Grassley’s bill would remove the tax deduction pharmaceutical companies take for their ads if the company prevented Americans from buying the drugs in Canada.

Advertising lobbyists oppose both efforts. “Edwards has gone down this road before and has been appropriately and overwhelmingly defeated,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president for government relations at the Association of National Advertisers. “The critics of prescription drug advertising in Congress vastly undervalue the importance of these ads for the health of the American public.”