American Society of Magazine Editors

Federal Regulators and Lawmakers Take Aim at Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription drugs has provided important information to patients about disease symptoms and treatment options since the early 1980’s. In today’s healthcare system, DTC advertising continues to play an important role by empowering patients to actively engage in their healthcare needs and treatment options. DTC advertising enhances communication between physicians and patients, raises public awareness about undiagnosed diseases, and informs patients about the benefits and risks of using prescription drugs to treat medical conditions. DTC advertising is especially effective in print form, where brief summary information is readily available right at hand. DTC advertising is the second-largest category in print magazine advertising, and MPA opposes efforts that would diminish or restrict this important resource for consumers.

In recent weeks, there has been increased regulatory and Congressional activity in this area. On February 12, Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced legislation that would impose a ban on DTC advertising for any drug within its first three years on the market. Legislation was introduced in March by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) that would eliminate the advertising deduction for all DTC pharmaceutical drugs ads, including those placed in magazines and online. While MPA is closely monitoring these legislative efforts, it is not likely either bill will advance this year.

On the regulatory front, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is ramping up its efforts on prescription drug advertising. Since October 2015, the FDA has announced plans to initiate two studies and a survey. The studies will examine the use of animation in television and video ads and its impact on the ability of consumers to comprehend the risks and side-effects disclosed in those ads, as well as the ability of consumers to understand complicated information about prescription drugs that are advertised through DTC television marketing. The survey will explore consumer experiences with, and attitudes towards, DTC advertising.

For more information regarding the FDA’s work in this area, and to review the Administration’s recently-announced studies and survey, please find links herehere and here. The bills mentioned above, from Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Al Franken, can be found here and here, respectively.