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Commentary

OUR VIEWS: 'Paradise' pills
The Press-Enterprise, 8-7-05

The Press-Enterprise editors believe that the best response to pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising is not more government regulation. Instead, we need “greater diligence from consumers and doctors.”

Prompted by concerns that direct-to-consumer drug advertising skews medical decisions and drives up prescription drug costs, Congress and the Food and Drug Administration are weighing tougher rules on the $4 billion-a-year drug advertising industry. … But such suggestions raise the question of what is wrong with the truth-in-advertising rules now in place. Fact is, the FDA has stepped up enforcement of existing advertising regulations. For instance, the FDA in April ordered Bayer Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline to pull an ad for their impotence drug, Levitra, because the spot made outlandish claims about the drug's benefits and did not adequately explain the side effects.

The drug industry literally has billions of incentives to police itself, and it should. In response to the rising chorus for more regulation, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association on Tuesday announced a new voluntary set of guidelines for future ad campaigns. …Those steps are a fine start. But no matter how hard an ad tries to sell better living through medication, or understate a drug's side effects, doctors - not pharmaceutical companies or government regulators - have the responsibility to prescribe medicines that are in the best interest of the patient. Likewise, patients have the duty to ask questions and engage in a give and take with their doctors about the best course of treatment - and not swallow the ads' claims like so much easy medicine.


Project FDA.
  
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