The American Medical Association's leadership has called for a complete ban on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medications and medical devices.
The organization announced the move, which it says it will back with a strong lobbying campaign, at its annual policy-makingmeeting in Atlanta earlier this month.
Drug company spending topped $4.5 billion this year, according to the AMA, and reflets a 30% increase in the last 2 years alone. AMA leadership contends that the bloated marketing budgets driving that expenditure are a major factor in soaring drug costs. Further, the physicians' group says the drug ads stoke patient demand for treatments that are often not necessary, and put pressure on physicians to prescribe when it is not appropriate.
The vote, "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 AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry disagrees. Tina Stow, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, contends that DTC ads transmit "scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options."
Given all the handwringing about healthcare costs, on top of all the election year politics, this showdown could be more exciting than the Superbowl.