House FDA bill steers clear of ad ban


The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill permitting the Food and Drug Administration to collect cash from users seeking drug approval and increases the FDA’s tools to regulate drugs already on the market. But what was notable to the media community was the absence of a three year ban on direct-to-consumer advertising for newly approved pharmaceuticals. A clear victory for pharmaceutical companies, it was actually sealed over the summer when the ban was stricken from the bill in the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and the bipartisan behest of Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Steve Buyer (R-IN). Also surviving from the committee session, however, was a plank calling for a first-offense fine of 250K for any false or misleading advertising, which will rise to 500K for any further violations within a three-year period. According to Advertising Age, the legislation will also bulk up the FDA staff responsible for reviewing pharma ads. The bill is expected to have a similarly easy ride through the Senate and the Oval Office.

RBR/TVBR observation: The onus for advertising content is on the advertiser, not the medium, so broadcasters need not worry about becoming a traffic cop for the FDA when it comes to pharmaceutical advertising. That said, a station is not serving its constituency when it allows sham products into its advertising mix. The FTC has guidelines for common false claims. It’s a good idea to be familiar with them, and to view potential pharmaceutical clients with a healthy amount of skepticism with an eye to maintaining the credibility of your own station.