Proposed ban on DTC ads is not about patients

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Ed Silverman reported that a US representative has introduced a bill calling for a three-year moratorium on advertising newly approved prescription drugs directly to consumers, reasoning that such a freeze would prevent consumers from receiving inaccurate information and also hold down health care costs. This proposed ban is not about what’s best for healthcare, it’s about punishing drug companies for high prices.

I have written that banning DTC advertising is a bad idea all around, but lawmakers and the AMA still think that consumers are going to see an ad for an Rx and run to their doctor to get an Rx at a time when 2/3’s of doctors say formularies limit their decision making. But, there is more, much more going on here.

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The proposed ban on DTC adverting suggests that consumers who view the ads are too dumb to do their own research and listen to their doctor about what’s best for them.  Overall advertising effectiveness, for non-impulse products, has been declining because consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips to help them chose the best product.  With prescription drugs, patients don’t blindly “ask for an advertised drug”, they do their research first.

The reality of the proposed ban on DTC advertising is more about high drug prices and a way for opportunistic politicians to get press coverage.  DTC ads inform and educate the public about treatment options and health problems, but don’t think for a minute that anyone is going to request an Rx without first learning as much as they can providing insurers will of course allow the product on formulary.