Monday, April 03, 2006

Advertisers Want to Strip Direct to Consumer Drug Advertisements of Specific Information on Side Effects

The Associated Press reported that the Coalition for Healthcare Communication submitted a petition to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to abolish the requirement that direct to consumer advertising of drugs include information about their specific adverse reactions. Instead, the Coalition suggested that the advertisements "simply carry a boilerplate warning that all perscription drugs have potential risks and benefits." (See an early post on direct to consumer advertising here.) "The Coalition for Healthcare Communication's members include the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Healthcare Marketing and Communications Council and Public Relations Society of America."

Their rationale was, "While some may think it desirable to tell consumers about all side effects and contraindications, no matter how clearly this information is communicated to consumers, a significant number will lack the education or background to comprehend or act on it." [emphasis added]

Of course, this raises the question of whether direct to consumer advertising, which is apparently only allowed in the US and New Zealand, is a good idea at all. Should patients who may not be able to comprehend information about drugs' adverse effects be exposed to sometimes emotionally based advertising designed to promote drugs' supposed benefits?

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