The American Medical Association's House of Delegates voted Tuesday to support a ban on direct-to-consumer drug and medical-device advertising, saying the ads drive up the demand for more expensive treatments.
The policy is a response to concerns that marketing costs are adding to “escalating drug prices,” the AMA said in a news release. Most ads, the association says, are aimed at promoting demand for products and not educating consumers.
The U.S. and New Zealand are the only countries that permit direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs, the AMA said. Spending on such advertising has increased by 30% in the last two years to $4.5 billion, according to Kantar Media, a marketing research firm.
Earlier this year, Kantar released a report (PDF) noting the importance of drug ads to print media. Publishers have seen decreases in ad revenue from automotive, consumer package goods, financial service and travel companies, but spending on apparel and pharmaceutical ads “was a bright spot.”
Cialis was the most advertised drug in 2014, according to Kantar, with Eli Lilly and Co. spending $272 million to promote their product. This was followed by AbbVie's Humira, at $259 million; and Pfizer's Lyrica, at $246 million.
The ads do work, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last month. The survey found that 28% of respondents said they asked their doctor about a drug after seeing a commercial about it—and 12% of those respondents said their doctors gave them a prescription for it. (Another 14% of doctors recommended a different prescription drug and 11% suggested an over-the-counter remedy.)
The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Altarum Institute reported last month that healthcare spending this past August was 5.7% higher than in August 2014. Prescription drug spending, with growth of 9.2% over August 2014, was the fastest-growing major spending category that it tracked.
The AMA said it will also encourage federal regulators to limit merger-driven anti-competitive maneuvers among drug companies that attempt “to reduce competition from generic manufacturers through manipulation of patent protections.”
The new AMA policy was applauded by the consumer-advocacy group Public Citizen.
“We agree that drug advertising is promotional, not educational, and drives up the price of prescription medications,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry's largest trade group, did not respond to requests for comment. PhRMA was touting a new report Tuesday finding that the net price increases for branded medicines in 2014 were the lowest in the past five years.