FDA Urges Doctors to Report Misleading Drug Ads
May 12, 2010
The Food and Drug Administration will begin asking doctors to keep an eye out for misleading drug advertisements as part of the agency''s latest effort to police the pharmaceutical industry''s multibillion-dollar marketing machine, according to the Associated Press. The agency''s "bad ad program" urges doctors to report ads and sales pitches that violate FDA rules. Drug companies are legally required to present a balanced picture of a drug''s benefits and risks in promotions, though critics charge that many TV and magazine ads fail to do so. Currently the FDA relies on a few dozen staffers to review hundreds of pharmaceutical ads, brochures and presentations voluntarily submitted by companies or reported to the agency by drug industry personnel. The agency issues warning letters to companies using misleading materials, but because of the volume of submissions those letters often aren''t sent until months after the ad is released -- and in some cases after the ad is no longer in circulation. As part of its new program FDA will offer doctors training at medical conferences to help spot misleading ads. They can report advertising violations anonymously by e-mailing badad(at)fda.gov or calling 877-RX-DDMAC. Drugmakers spend about $20 billion per year to promote their products in various mediums, ranging from medical journal ads and information booths at conferences to multimillion dollar TV campaigns. About $4 billion of industry spending goes toward patient-targeted advertisements. Some drug industry critics charge TV drug advertisements encourage over-prescribing of medications by emphasizing the benefits and minimizing the risks. The FDA is also conducting a 2,000-person study to determine if the relaxing, upbeat images featured in TV drug ads distract consumers from warnings about the drugs'' risks.