Four proposals that address drug advertising and marketing issues, which have not been widely discussed, may be incorporated into the final health care reform bill.

1)  Of most concern to the pharmaceutical industry is a proposal to eliminate the tax deduction for drug advertising.  Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising is a prime target due to concern that DTC ads do not present an accurate picture of drug risks and benefits and that they drive use of new drugs before their safety is fully known.

2)  Health care reform bills in both the House and the Senate contain transparency provisions, akin to those in the Physicians Payments Sunshine Act of 2009, which propose for the disclosure of drug and device company payments to doctors to be federally mandated.

3)  Section 138 of the health care reform bill  bans the commercial use of “prescription information containing patient identifiable and prescriber identifiable data.”  If passed, Section 138 would end drug representatives’  current practice of tailoring their sales messages to each doctor’s prescribing history, which can put more pressure on doctors to prescribe newer, more expensive medications.

4)  The health care reform bill would authorize the FDA to evaluate whether use of a “drug facts box” format on drug labels – to more clearly present a drug’s benefits and risks – would improve health care decision making.  This  bill would also allow the FDA to set standards for comparative clinical effectiveness information to be included in drug labeling and advertising.

Source:  Health Reform Watch, 2 October 2009.

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