The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Med School Profs Attack Consumer Drug Marketing

by Brendan Coyne

Oct. 28, 2005 – A week away from federal hearings on drug-marketing practices, more than 200 prominent medical academics signed on to a call for an end to pharmaceutical industry advertising practices aimed directly at consumers. The action comes amid growing concern among medical practitioners that direct-to-consumer marketing of drug and medical services is undermining the integrity in health care.

According to the statement, which was signed by professors at many of the nation’s most prestigious medical schools and former New England Journal of Medicine editors, the drug industry spent over $4 billion advertising drugs last year. In addition, pharmaceutical companies spend between $900 million and $1 billion a year on medical education classes and showering medical school students with gifts.

Facing public and political pressure, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), the nation’s largest drug company lobby, in August announced voluntary marketing rules for member companies to adopt. The rules included suggestions that firms submit television advertisements to the Food and Drug Administration before release, that commercials state the health condition for which the medicine being advertised is approved, and that advertisements "balance" presentation of the risks and benefits of the marketed medication.

But the 211 medical professionals who signed the statement are calling for a moratorium on direct-to-consumer advertising or, at least, FDA regulation of the practice. They warn that pharmaceutical companies cannot be trusted to regulate their own marketing activities because they have an "inherent and irredeemable financial conflict of interest, which drives them to exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative qualities of their own products."

Commercial Alert, a consumer advocacy group, will present the statement at next week’s FDA hearings. The group crafted the statement and recruited medical school professors from Yale, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and dozens of other schools to sign on.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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