Does the AMA have an agenda?

On November 17, 2015, the American Medical Association drew a line in the sand: they called for a ban on all direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. And while only Congress has the power to actually ban advertising (you know, free speech and all), the pharmaceutical industry still took it on the chin.

High Costs?

The AMA contends that marketing costs are driving up drug prices. And because advertising is at the forefront, it’s easy to erroneously make it the major culprit. But this argument overlooks the fact that advertising is just a tiny fraction of the average $2.6 billion cost of bringing a drug to market. Yes, that’s billion. With a ‘b.’

Undue Influence?

The AMA also says that advertising drives patients to demand medications that may not be appropriate. But at the end of the day, physicians are the gatekeepers of prescription drugs. Patients can’t go to CVS and just buy any medication they want.

Unfair Oversight?

What’s more, banning advertising does nothing about the proliferation of inaccurate information everywhere. If I wanted to write a blog denouncing the newest diabetes drug, there would be nothing to stop me. But if I were a pharma company giving patients balanced information for a purposeful dialog with their physicians, then I’d be out of luck.

Remember, pharmaceutical companies are a business. That means they operate for profit—just like every other business in the universe. So with no financial incentive to develop breakthrough cancer drugs or bring a state-of-the-art asthma medication to market, who knows how many lives might be lost.

As a pharmaceutical advertising professional I could be accused of having an agenda as well—job security. But it’s imperative for doctors, patients, and everyone else to find out what’s really behind the AMA’s actions. Patients’ lives could hang in the balance.


RICHARD BERNSTEIN

Group Copy Supervisor
Inveterate debater. Knowledge junkie. Unabashed pop music fan.