AMA wants to ban direct-to-consumer advertising

Hilary Clinton proposed the advertising ban to stop “price gouging” by pharmaceutical companies. Her plan would prevent companies from deducting what they spend on direct-to-customer ads from their tax bills. (Niko LaBarbera/Lariat)

The American Medical Association is calling for a ban on advertising prescription drugs and medical devices directly to consumers. Influential doctors in the group said the new policy will reflect physicians’ concerns on how advertising helps bring tons of sales and money.

The United States and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and drugmakers’ spending on advertisement has shot up 30 percent in the last two years to $4.5 billion, according to the World Health Organization.

Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton proposed the advertising ban and other measures to stop what she called “price gouging” by pharmaceutical companies. Clinton’s plan would prevent companies from deducting what they spend on direct-to-customer ads from their tax bills.

It was determined through a series of court ruling that ads cannot be outright banned because they are a form of commercial speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

PhRMA, the largest U.S. trade group for the pharmaceutical industry, said these ads increase consumer awareness of available treatments for diseases, including undiagnosed diseases. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis this year, 52 percent of Americans believe these ads do not have enough information about the risks and 46 percent say the ads lack information about the benefits.

Drug-specific promotions are far less likely to be accurate because of the pressure on companies to sell their products. The ads also encourage patients to visit their doctors’ offices for conversations about their health that might not otherwise take place.

The AMA says the new policy will launch a task force and advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry, and greater transparency in prescription drug costs.