The advertising trade group known as the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) published an op-ed piece on PharmExec.com on Monday promising to defend the industry’s right to use direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads for pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The agency says that the majority of their lobbying efforts in the 2016 US presidential election will be focused on fighting the proposed DTC advertising ban.
In November of last year, the American Medical Association (AMA) held their Interim Meeting where they advocated for a ban on DTC advertising by pharmaceutical and medical device developers. The AMA maintains that huge pharma marketing budgets are contributing to the rising cost of drugs in the country.
“You might think these ads could be good,” said Wharton professor of business economics and public policy, Michael Sinkinson, in an interview with The Fiscal Times. “They could actually encourage people to talk to their doctor and get their cholesterol checked. The worry, though, is: What if these ads are not about getting you to talk to your doctor [but] getting you to ask for a specific drug?”
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has expressed her support for the ban by outlining measures designed to deter companies from engaging in excessive DTC advertising in her plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Clinton proposes cutting tax breaks for DTC advertising thereby encouraging pharmaceutical companies to invest more in R&D as opposed to marketing.
“Much of our efforts in D.C. in 2016 are going to be about fighting the potential ban on pharmaceutical ads,” wrote Mollie Rosen, Executive Vice President of agency relations and memberships at the 4A’s. “We have beaten it back in the past when it has come up, and we will work to do so again and to lobby for the role of advertising in this industry.”
According to figures collected by Nielsen, pharma DTC spending rose by nearly 21 percent in 2014, to $4.5 billion. Marketers spent $3.8 million on DTC ads in 2013, the majority of which was spent on TV spots.
The Clinton campaign points out that most other developed nations have tighter restrictions – or all-out bans – on DTC advertising, suggesting that the US is far behind its counterparts in regulating pharma marketers. Clinton agrees with the AMA in that DTC advertising contributes to increasingly unaffordable prescription drugs, adding that improper regulation of the industry could lead to patient confusion and overestimation of a drug’s effectiveness.
“We feel it’s our obligation [to defend DTC],” said Dick O’Brien, Executive Vice President of the 4A’s and director of government relations. “We will start working with Congress, mainly because you can’t ban it or eliminate the tax deduction without a new law.”