PHARMA: The AMA goes out on a limb on DTC ads

While some doctors have been complaining about DTC ads for a while, surveys show that they don’t really mind too much, and that when patients ask for a drug the doctors often prescribe it.  Finally the AMA has come up with a revolutionary proposal: the ads should say what the drug is used for! Presumably doctors are fed up with answering that question to confused patients who’ve seen Levitra ads.

In fact DTC advertising has indubitally pushed up drug use and drug costs.  But it’s also increased understanding of various diseases among patients. So calling DTC advertising a major cause of increased health care costs when drugs represent less than 10% of all costs is a little over the top.  Of course the media companies do appreciate the $3bn a year that is dropped their way by the drug companies. Some of this was discussed by Art Caplan and Sherry Glied in Teri Gross’ Fresh Air show on NPR  this morning on the increase in health costs.

On a totally random aside, they can’t show DTC advertising in the UK.  Otherwise Glaxo might have slipped up in the way that GM screwed up by calling the Chevy Nova (Don’t Go) in South America (although apparently it’s an urban legend). After all the ad here says take Levitra if you’re having trouble staying "in the game"; they might have talked about trouble going "on the game", which is British slang for being a prostitute!

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