Frist Wants 2-Year Wait on DTC Ads for New Drugs

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Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN, asked pharmaceutical marketers Friday to voluntarily stop direct-to-consumer advertising during a drug's first two years on the market.


Going a step further, Frist also wants a General Accountability Office review of Food and Drug Administration oversight of prescription drug activities and the industry's spending on these ads, according to a published CNP report.


"In recent years, spending on DTC advertising of prescription drugs has skyrocketed," Frist said in a statement. "This advertising can lead to inappropriate prescribing and fuel prescription drug spending. It can also oversell benefits and undersell risks.


"Used appropriately, direct-to-consumer advertising can empower patients without inflating need or distorting medical realities," he said. "But research evidence indicates that this blitz in direct marketing has unwittingly led to inappropriate prescribing, which most importantly can compromise patient safety and care."


Frist is a doctor.


The announcement comes soon after Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said in June that it would not advertise drugs directly to consumers in their first year on the market. The company instead will spend more on physician education and on Web sites. Nielsen Monitor-Plus estimated Bristol-Myers last year spent $140 million on paid media.


DTC pharmaceutical advertising gained notoriety in the past year after the federal government asked drug companies to pull ads for drugs like Celebrex, Crestor, Levitra and Zyrtec. Claims against Vioxx's side effects also have hurt the industry.


Pharmaceutical marketers are now expected to release a self-regulatory code of advertising. They will have to hasten their efforts to stave off government regulations that restrict the public's view of ads with information on new drugs available.


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