We all expected Democrats to rake DTC ads over the coals during yesterday's hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight arm. We expected Chairman Bart Stupak to call for tighter controls on the ads. What we didn't expect was for the American Medical Association to join the fray. President-elect Nancy Nielsen told lawmakers that the FDA should be given more authority to pre-approve DTC ads. Striking directly at drugmakers' usual defense of the ads as "educational," Nielsen said, "It is frankly clear that the majority of what's happening has a marketing effect and not an educational effect."
Nor did we know that the feds' own watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, would say the FDA isn't completely effective at regulating those ads; the agency takes more than six months to issue warnings about ads that violate the rules.
During the hearing, ads such as those for Merck/Schering-Plough's Vytorin and Johnson & Johnson's Procrit were called misleading and not completely truthful. Pharma officials struck back, saying that the claims made in those ads were "supported by research" (M/S-P) and "true, responsible, and substantiated by scientific studies" (J&J). And Republicans on the committee said the (unfunded) standards Congress set last year for drug commercials should be paid for and given a chance to work.
ALSO: The feds need to add rules governing drug product placements, too, according to a report from University of California-Los Angeles researchers. Report