Pharmacists join physicians' rallying cry for a ban on pharma's DTC advertising

The anti-DTC advertising train is getting crowded. This week a national pharmacist group, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, joined the physicians of the American Medical Association in a call to ban DTC ads.

ASHP had been provisionally tolerant of DTC ads--that is, it was unopposed as long as the advertising met certain prerequisites. It had to be educational, using easy to understand language for benefits and risks; include directions for adverse event reporting; and promote safety and allow informed decisions. 

It became clear to the group that those standards were largely being ignored by pharma companies, said Kasey Thompson, chief operating officer and senior VP of ASHP’s office of policy, planning and communications. So ASHP revoked its provisional support.

“There is no question that patient education is important--even some patient education provided by the pharmaceutical industry,” he told FiercePharmaMarketing, adding that, “[A]t the end of the day, a complete ban isn't achievable--we all know the arguments about first amendment rights and free speech--but I think what our delegates are trying to achieve here is to force a conversation between the industry and the healthcare provider community.”

Thompson said the issue was on the agenda at the ASHP’s annual meeting of its house of delegates this week and voted on there.

Physicians and pharmacists spend too much time having to explain TV ad drugs that aren’t appropriate for patients, he said, and overall “the model out now for DTC isn’t working.” He said the ASHP's move, along with the AMA’s decision, are signals from the healthcare community that it’s time for a change.

“Pharma does great things in terms of innovation, and we need this industry. It’s not trying to limit innovation and R&D. It’s about utilizing scarce resources in the most effective ways possible and we think, as the AMA thinks, that direct-to-consumer advertising is not an optimal use of resources," Thompson said. "There must be a better way for smart well-intentioned people that are focused on the patient can arrive at."

DTC has had a tough year, not only with the call for a ban from the AMA and now pharmacists, but also as an election year tough-talk-on-pricing point and with a renewed call to eliminate the federal income tax deduction for pharma ads in a new Senate bill.

- read the ASHP release

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Photo by Ashley Campbell via Flickr under Creative Commons license