FDA to Study Effects of TV Ads for Prescription Drugs on Consumers — Missouri Pharmaceutical Liability Law Firm

By February 25, 2009Drug Safety

The FDA plans to study how well consumers absorb information and respond to television advertisements for prescription drugs, American Medical News reported Feb. 2. The agency is interested in how well consumers learn about the risks and benefits of drugs they see on television, the article says, with the goal of setting standards for the ads. To study this, the FDA will produce television ads for a fictional blood pressure medication and recruit 2,400 people to watch them and tell researchers what they’ve learned. The study’s start date was not announced, but the FDA was taking public comments until the end of January.
Television ads that market directly to consumers — rather than to the doctors responsible for prescribing drugs — have been controversial throughout their 12-year lifespan. The ads were not allowed on the air or in print at all until 1997, and only one other country, New Zealand, allows them on television. Since TV pharmaceutical ads were introduced in the U.S., doctors and consumer activists have repeatedly complained that the ads encourage patients to ask for drugs that they don’t really need, wasting doctors’ time and raising the risk of over-medication. Another concern is that direct-to-consumer ads gloss over the risks of a drug and spend more time on their benefits, presenting a biased view. And one study showed that the ads aren’t very effective, raising concerns about wasted millions that are built into the cost of the drugs.
In response, the American Medical Association has called for drug makers to submit to mandatory FDA review of the ads; allow doctors to learn about a drug before advertising it to consumers; and make a more balanced presentation of drug risks and benefits. Congress is also concerned about the safety of drug ads, which is why it asked the FDA to set drug advertising standards in the FDA Amendments Act of 2007. The FDA’s advertising study was launched in response to that legislation, in hope of eventually devising standards.
As a Missouri drug injury attorney, I am concerned about the possible over-medication effect of prescription drug advertising. Statistics show that prescription drug errors are already responsible for more deaths each year than illegal drugs, so we hardly need to create more unnecessary prescriptions. Furthermore, the drugs that are most likely to be advertised on television are the newer drugs, which means we still have relatively limited information on their safety and efficacy. Among recent heavily advertised drugs that turned out to have serious problems are Vioxx, a painkiller now withdrawn from the market after strong links to heart attacks and strokes, and Zyprexa, a psychiatric medication that may cause diabetes and was allegedly illegally marketed for off-label uses.
Carey, Danis & Lowe has active pharmaceutical liability practices for victims of both Vioxx and Zyprexa. If you or someone you love developed serious health problems after taking these drugs — or other dangerous pharmaceuticals — we would like to hear from you. Based in St. Louis, we help clients in the Midwest and throughout the United States. To schedule a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at 1-877-678-3400 as soon as possible.