CBO: Ban on drug ads wouldn't affect prices

CBO specifically studied proposals to ban consumer ads within the first two years after a drug is approved. Marketing is usually heaviest for new drugs, which either face less competition or are pitched as superior to a similar product already on the market.

Marketing to doctors would offset the drop in demand from consumers, CBO said.

Its report also raised questions about the argument that a two-year moratorium would improve patient safety. Proponents of a marketing ban say two years is an appropriate window because drugs’ side effects are not fully known when they first come to market. Drugs are approved based on limited data, and some safety information only becomes clear after more widespread use.

But drug ads have been shown to prompt people to seek treatment for conditions they would otherwise neglect, CBO said. It added that if an advertising moratorium successfully cut down on demand during a drug’s first two years on the market, it would only delay the discovery of side effects.