The U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversees prescription drugs and the pharmaceutical industry’s advertising practices.
FDA maintains a web site outlining the requirements of federal law and some tips for consumers, at www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou /Consumers/Prescription DrugAdvertising/default.htm
FDA does not review drug advertising before it hits the airwaves, nor can it limit the amount of money drug companies spend on ads.
Ads are required to:
• State at least one approved use for each drug.
• Give the generic name for the drug.
• Mention risks of the drug.
Ads are not required to:
• Disclose cost.
• Mention existence of a cheaper generic equivalent.
• Mention a competing drug with different risks.
• Disclose that lifestyle changes could treat the condition and eliminate the need for the drug.
The agency recommends consumers think about these questions, when they evaluate a drug advertisement and discuss it with their physicians:
• What condition does this drug treat?
• Why do I think I might have this condition?
• Should I take this drug if I am taking certain other drugs?
• Is there a less costly drug I could use to treat my condition?
• What else can I do to help deal with my condition? For example, should I exercise or change my diet?
• Do other drugs for my condition have different side effects?
Several groups argue for an ethical separation between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing. They contend clinical decisions should be based only on scientific evidence. These groups include:
• No Free Lunch. Website: nofreelunch.org
• The Pew Prescription Project. Website: www.prescriptionproject.org/
• American Medical Student Association. Website: www.amsa.org/AMSA/Homepage/ TakeAction/PharmFree.aspx
• Drug Effectiveness Review Project, Oregon Health and Science University. Website: http://www.ohsu.edu/ drugeffectiveness