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National Institute for Health Insurance Reform

One little guy - one big goal - fix a broken system. mailto:rereason@hotmail.com

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Drug Company Reins in Ads

Drug giant Bristol-Meyers Squibb announced they would voluntarily impose a one-year moratorium on advertising new prescription drugs to consumers.

American Academy of Family Physicians president Mary Frank praised the company for taking a step in the right direction.

According to the AAFP article, numerous studies in recent years have shown a link between advertising directed at consumers and doctor's writing prescriptions.

The issue of advertising by drug companies is controversial for several reasons. Estimates of the added costs to the healthcare system vary widely; some say $4 billion per year, and others claim the costs exceed spending on research and development.

Recent experience with Vioxx (not a Bristol-Meyers Squibb product) has raised the issue's public awareness. Vioxx was agressively marketed before Merck pulled it off the market because of a possible link to increased risk of heart problems.

Senator Bill Frist recently said "It's time for drug companies to clean up their act. If they don't, Congress will."

Among developed nations, only New Zealand and the United States allow drug companies to advertise prescriptions directly to consumers.

At best, these ads create a burden on doctors who are forced to explain why a particular drug that has been heavily promoted is not right for their patients. At worst, these adds increase demand, drive up prices, and add untold billions to healthcare costs.

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