The AHSP, the organization that represents 43,000 pharmacists and technicians in hospitals and other acute care settings, called for banning DTC. This was a change from previous positions that supported DTC in limited use. The AHSP does not represent retail pharmacy but it is still an important voice in health care. Along with the AMA this call for a ban adds fuel to the political fire related to drug company bashing over pricing and marketing.
The AHSP statement calling for a ban cites the much misstated data that says drug companies spend more on marketing than research. They also say that DTC can be misleading. Therefore they feel that pharmacists and other clinicians can best help consumers with drug selection. This reasoning is faulty. Drug company marketing data includes sales force expense, sampling costs, physician ads, as well as DTC. The drug companies spend over $50 billion on R&D. That is ten times the amount spent on DTC.
Are drug ads misleading? FDA requires all claims to be clinically supported and requires fair balance. They review all ads for accuracy. While advertising is designed to sell, drug ads are the most scrutinized of all advertising categories.
Despite the facts, the anti DTC forces are a major concern for drug advertisers. Hilary and Trump are not friends of the drug industry. It is clear from their statements that neither has their facts straight. Hilary sees drug companies as her enemy, an evil profit hungry industry. Trump sees drug companies as one of his vendors to be squeezed like a mattress supplier for his hotels.
What drug company employees and their media and agency partners must do is let Congress know the facts. Take the time to educate your Congressional representatives how important drug advertising is and why it is important to consumers. Have them understand that DTC does not raise prices. Banning commercial speech for lawful products is a bad idea. What category will be next?
The call for a ban by hospital pharmacists is hypocritical given the huge investment hospitals are making in DTC. Almost every hospital advertises these days. These same hospital based pharmacists think it is acceptable to advertise surgery on television but not drugs.
DTC advertising is not perfect but deserves to be one way for patients to get information. If pharmacists think banning information helps patients, they are wrong. Their input is valuable but to say they and the physician should have a monopoly on patient communication is unrealistic in the Internet era.
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