Reps strike three-year DTC ban from drug bill


The House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health handed pharmaceutical distributors, and broadcasters, a victory yesterday, striking down a potential three-year ban on direct-to-consumer advertising, and instead relying on existing guidelines.

The amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act came from Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Steve Buyer (R-IN) and passed by a 23-9 margin. Although the outright ban is gone, it was replaced with a hefty fine if the advertising is found to be false or misleading. The bill allows government review of an ad if deemed necessary, but begins with the statement, "'Guidance for Industry Consumer-Directed Broadcast Advertisements' issued by the FDA in August 1999, represents generally good guidance for direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines and other treatments." It provides steps to help assure that such advertising is reliable and informative.

It does away with the three year moratorium on advertising for risk assessment, but places the onus of a first-offense 250K fine on any false or misleading advertising going up to 500K for any further violations within a three-year period. The NAB's Dennis Wharton commented, "NAB applauds Representatives Towns and Buyer for offering this important pro-consumer amendment.

Each year, thousands of Americans seek treatment for heart disease, high blood pressure and other diseases through education that comes in part from prescription drug advertising. There is simply no legitimate reason to deny American citizens this potentially life-saving information."