US physician group calls for ban on direct to consumer drug advertising

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 18 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6230
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

The American Medical Association has called for a ban on all direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices. The new policy, adopted on 17 November at the AMA’s interim meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, also called for the federal government to limit anticompetitive behavior by drug companies.

In a statement Patrice A Harris, AMA board chair elect, said that direct to consumer advertising was inflating demand for new and more expensive drugs that may not be appropriate.“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,” she said.

The US Food and Drug Administration has said that the United States and New Zealand are the only two developed countries that allow direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs.

As part of its initiative the AMA will convene a physician task force and launch an advocacy campaign to promote the affordability of prescription drugs, greater transparency in their prices, and competition in the drug industry.

Tina Stow, a spokesperson for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that direct to consumer advertising makes patients more aware of the conditions they have, some of which may not have been diagnosed, and of the treatments available to them. Such advertising also increases patients’ awareness of the benefits and risks of new medicines, Stow said, and “encourages patients to visit their doctors’ offices for important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place.”

The soaring cost of prescription drugs in the US, which has the highest such prices in the world, has become a growing concern among patients and payers. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation1 found that 72% of people thought US drug costs were unreasonable and that 83% favored allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medicines for Medicare patients. Such negotiations are not currently allowed by law.

Similar views were shared by a panel comprising leaders of hospital systems, insurance companies, large physician practices, trade groups, and not for profit organizations surveyed by the magazine Modern Healthcare.2 The industry leaders said that rising drug costs were undermining their finances, nearly half (45%) said that the impact was “very negative,” and 86% supported giving the federal government the authority to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6230


View Abstract

Sign in

Log in through your institution

Free trial

Register for a free trial to to receive unlimited access to all content on for 14 days.
Sign up for a free trial