Lawmakers take aim at DTC ads

While pharma tunes up its advertising in support of healthcare reform, lawmakers are considering a little ad reform of their own. Yep, it's DTC regulation time, with Congressional reps eyeing everything from bans on certain ads to the tax deduction on pharma advertising.

According to the New York Times, a House bill would bar ads for sex-related meds such as Viagra and Levitra from prime-time TV. Rep. Henry Waxman, the powerful House Energy and Commerce chair, says he'd like the FDA to keep consumer ads for new drugs off the air until those meds have been on the market long enough for docs and patients to see how they work in the real world.

But the biggest change would come from the "Say No to Drug Ads Act," a bill backed by Rep. Jerrold Nadler. It would yank the tax deduction on direct-to-consumer drug ads. Nadler told the Times that the ads encourage viewers to self-diagnose and that, in his view, patients should not go to the doctor asking for particular meds. "On First Amendment grounds I am not going to say we will ban" drug ads," Nadler told the newspaper. "But they should not be able to get taxpayers to subsidize it."

Of course, the tax deduction has faced the knife before, most recently when Rep. Charles Rangel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, suggested that axing it could help finance healthcare reform. Both pharma and the media lobbied against that change, and it was dropped. It looks like the fight isn't over yet, however.

- read the NYT article