PhRMA ad code doesn't satisfy Congress

Yesterday, PhRMA released its new guidelines for drug marketing, and some in Congress are not impressed. If the industry group's guidance was designed to forestall government action, as some observers believe, then it failed. Senators and Congressional reps leapt on the rules, saying that they don't go far enough to protect consumers.

As Advertising Age reports, perennial pharma critics Rep. John Dingell and Rep. Bart Stupak--who have been investigating some DTC ads--said the revised rules do take care of some issues that came up when they held hearings over the issue. But the rules don't address other problems, they said. Some of the changes are just "rewording of prior policy that does nothing to increase consumer protection," Stupak protested. Meanwhile, Rep. Henry Waxman is adamant that he wants a two-year ban on all advertising of new drug brands, something PhRMA failed to address.

Sen. Ted Kennedy didn't attack PhRMA's guidelines directly, but instead called for quick confirmation of a new FDA chief and the addition of funding for FDA enforcement, including enforcement of marketing and advertising rules. "[T]he new administration needs to nominate a commissioner who is committed to enforcing the law," Kennedy said.

Which brings up another potential shortcoming of PhRMA's rules. As Jim Edwards at BNet Pharma points out, PhRMA's guidelines carry no enforcement provisions. Unlike the U.K.'s trade industry, which can censure and even suspend drugmakers that don't comply, PhRMA's code is voluntary. Even the reports of consumer complaints are sanitized so that the public doesn't know which companies or brands failed to follow the rules.

- see the Ad Age story
- read the post at BNet
- check out PharmaTimes' coverage

ALSO: To avoid running afoul of marketing rules, Novartis hired bouncers to keep U.S. residents away from its booth at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's annual meeting. Report