Prescription drug marketing directly to the consumer, can include virtually any class of prescription drugs, and is routinely permitted under U.S. law. Notable, is the profoundly different regulatory environment in the European Union (EU), Australia, and Canada where pharmaceutical manufacturers are forbidden to advertise prescription drugs to the public. In point of fact, the U.S. is one of only two countries in the world (the other is New Zealand) where it is legal for drug companies to advertise to the public.
Such “direct to consumer” or DTC advertising is meant, obviously, to create increased patient demand for specific drugs from their doctors. In this scenario, patients really become consumers, replacing the doctor as prescriber, if the physician is foolish enough to surrender his authority. Consumer Reports, in a 2006 survey found that 78 percent of doctors said that patients asked them at one time or another to prescribe drugs they had seen advertised on television.
While Congress recently gave the FDA more authority to regulate ads, it rejected a measure that would have allowed to agency to place a moratorium on ads for new drugs that raise safety concerns. The sad fact remains that Congress seems in no mood to address the main problem, the legality of advertising drugs to the public.
Don’t expect the ad barrage, TV or otherwise, to subside any time soon.