Good ad or bad ad? FDA quiz reminds docs about its Bad Ad program to police problematic advertising

The FDA is listening out for—and asking for help on—false or misleading pharma promotions through its Bad Ad program. (Getty Images)

True or false: Pharmaceutical companies are required to send drug ads to the FDA for approval before they're used. It’s false—but you'd already know that if you took the FDA’s new interactive quiz to help promote its Bad Ad program.

Now in its 12th year, the FDA's Bad Ad program is promoting itself to healthcare providers to determine false or misleading advertising and report it to the FDA for review. The FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) oversees the program.

The recently added quiz, promoted in an email to healthcare professionals and media, is a new twist on the agency’s efforts to raise awareness and police promotions.

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“We have done quizzes before for other topics such as hand sanitizers and sunscreens but not for the Bad Ad program. We have done outreach for the Bad Ad program through other means such as webinars, articles and continuing education,” a CDER spokesperson said in an email.

The 10 questions cover basic information on how the program works and how OPDP takes action as well as how to report suspect promotions. One answer reveals part of the reason the program is needed—the FDA received 135,000 prescription drug promotions to review in 2020, and the volume increases every year.

That same year, the Bad Ad program received 312 reports from pharma ad watchers, its highest yearly total to date. CDER reports specific complaints through Bad Ads ranged from 95 to 312 from 2010 through 2020; that doesn’t include direct reports to CDER that didn’t go through the program.

Reports can be filed anonymously through the program, although the FDA encourages including contact information so it can follow up if needed.

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Expect more promotions as the FDA and CDER continue to look to supplement ad policing.

“We are always looking for new and effective ways to continue to raise awareness among healthcare providers about false or misleading prescription drug promotion while also providing them with an easy way to report it to the Agency,” CDER said.