FTC Asks FDA to Loosen Drug Ad Requirements

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Federal Trade Commission has concluded that consumers don’t read the lengthy lists of side effects now required for prescription drug print ads and recommends that the Food and Drug Administration provide a simpler way to communicate that information to the public.

The FTC suggests that consumers be given information in print and broadcast prescription drug ads that would direct them to more consumer-friendly sources. Under the current FDA print rules for direct-to-consumer drug ads, a list of side effects must be included. In broadcast ads, an announcer discusses the potential side effects.

“Most consumers do not read the brief summary information in print ads,” the FTC staff wrote in response to a request from the FDA to comment on prescription drug ads. “Many who do read it likely do not understand it: unlike medical professionals, many consumers do not have the education, training and background necessary to evaluate critically the highly technical language of the FDA-approved product labeling. Consumers may simply ignore a page of mouse print they do not understand.”

The advertising industry has argued that the FDA rules for print do not help consumers make better choices. “We’ve felt the key thing a prescription drug ad should do is provide enough information to convince consumers to go discuss key health issues with their doctor, and that these ads should not be an encyclopedia of information,” said Dan Jaffe, the Association of National Advertisers executive vice president for government relations. “More is not always better.”