Doctors group call for ban on drug ads

Doctors group call for ban on drug ads
© Thinkstock

The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging the federal government to ban drug ads that doctors warn are inflating the demand for costly treatments and driving up prices nationwide.

Hundreds of physicians voted in support of an advertising ban at the group’s annual meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday. Under the policy, drug companies in the U.S. would no longer be allowed to promote products directly to consumers, a type of marketing that is banned in all other countries except New Zealand.

Dr. Patrice Harris, the group’s newly elected board chairwoman, said in a statement that the advertising “inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

The group held the vote a few weeks after Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE proposed a crackdown on drug company advertising as part of her platform. She said last month that she would make drug companies get federal approval for any ads and limit the amount they can spend. 

Drug companies spent $4.5 billion on advertising last year, a 30 percent increase over two years, according to market research firm Kantar Media.

The AMA is wading into the drug-pricing debate at a time when the majority of voters now say they care more about drug prices than almost any other issue.

The group says it will also launch an advocacy campaign on drug affordability “by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry and greater transparency.”

The issues of competition and transparency among drug companies are likely to become even more important issues for Congress, where the rollout of the Affordable Care Act is becoming less of a focus.

Patient and doctors groups, like the AMA, are echoing calls from Democrats for more transparency in prescription drug pricing and costs, which they say will help limit cost increases.

“If there is greater understanding of the factors that contribute to prescription drug pricing, including the research, development, manufacturing, marketing and advertising costs borne by pharmaceutical companies, then the marketplace can react appropriately,” the AMA wrote in a statement.