CHICAGO — The American Medical Association on Tuesday called for a ban on consumer advertising for prescription drugs and medical devices, saying such marketing could be driving demand for unnecessary expensive treatments.
The Chicago-based association said it adopted a policy supporting an advertising ban and called for greater transparency in prescription drug prices and costs. The policy was adopted by physicians at an AMA meeting in Atlanta.
"Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," Dr. Patrice A. Harris, the AMA's incoming chair, said in a statement.
Last year, drugmakers spent $4.5 billion on consumer advertising, a 30 percent jump from 2012, according to Kantar Media, a market research firm that specializes in media consumption.
Spending on prescription medicines jumped 13 percent last year to $374 billion, according to data firm IMS Health, a medical industry marketing research firm.
The AMA is the latest health organization to call for a ban on such ads, following the World Health Organization, the National Center for Health Research and other groups. Many consumer groups, including Public Citizen, have also pushed for a ban, saying such advertising pressures doctors to prescribe particular medications that may be less effective and more expensive and risky.
The United States and New Zealand are the only countries that allow direct-to-consumer drug advertising.
Drugmakers have defended the advertising, saying it encourages people to seek medical advice and removes the stigma associated with medical conditions. The ads can trigger "important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place," says a white paper issued by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association based in Washington.
The AMA policy also calls for launching an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability by demanding choice and competition in the pharmaceutical industry.
The association said it was responding to "deepened concerns" that anti-competitive behavior in a consolidated pharmaceutical marketplace has the potential to increase drug prices. The group said it would monitor pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions, as well as the impact of such actions on drug prices.
According to Nielsen, drugmakers spent nearly $20 billion over the past five years to advertise drugs to consumers. The biggest share of the ad money last year was spent on television ($3.2 billion), followed by magazines ($1.2 billion), newspapers ($127 million), radio ($26 million) and billboards ($4 million).
Of the top 10 advertised drugs, two are for erectile dysfunction (Cialis and Viagra), three are for arthritis (Xeljanz, Humira and Celebrex), two are for mental health issues (Latuda and Abilify), and one each is for stroke prevention (Eliquis), fibromyalgia (Lyrica) and diabetes (also Lyrica).
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