Direct-to-Consumer Drug Ads

Background: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for public comment regarding the direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs. In response to the FDA request, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), not exactly the "public," released their response summarizing their opinion of the economic impact of DTC advertising as well as a number of suggestions for improving DTC ads.

FTC Statement: The FTC concludes that "...DTC advertising generally benefits consumers..." by providing "useful information about the drug options open to them." The FTC also feels that DTC advertising "empowers consumers to interact with physicians more effectively" and that DTC advertising does not increase the sale of inappropriate drugs or lead to increased drug prices. A major suggestion was that the FDA modify broadcasts and print ad requirements so that consumers can more accurately grasp a particular drug's risks and benefits.

Our Comments: We would like to have more information as to how the FTC concluded that DTC ads do not increase the inappropriate sale of drugs or lead to increased drug prices. Ultimately, it should be a medical determination as to whether a particular prescription drug is appropriate for a patient. And someone ends up paying for all those expensive drug ads on prime-time television.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com