It’s the phrase you hear at the end of countless TV ads for drugs that treat everything from low sex drive to high blood pressure: “talk to your doctor about ______.” Despite a laundry list of terrible-sounding potential side effects, the paid actors in these commercials look happy, healthy and satisfied with their prescriptions. However, the real physicians who can prescribe these treatments are aiming to cut the cord on this type of advertising. At the recent Interim Meeting of the American Medical Association, physicians came together to adopt a new policy that supports banning direct-to-consumer advertising from pharmaceutical companies.
“Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A. and AMA Board Chair-elect, said in a statement. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
The makers of those drugs are many of the same pharmaceutical companies that used to pay for doctors to attend medical meetings and conferences. While companies have cut those budgets in the wake of new regulations surrounding the healthcare industry,
it seems they have dramatically increased their investment in direct-to-consumer advertising. A recent report from market research firm Kantar Media shows that drug maker ad dollars have increased by 30 percent in the past two years to a total of $4.5 billion.
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The vote at the AMA meeting in Atlanta will mean more than physicians asking the government to reduce that spending to zero. The organization is also aiming to launch an advocacy campaign to promote prescription drug affordability and greater transparency in prescription drug prices.
The news raises an interesting question about the relationship between the physicians who attend medical meetings and the pharmaceutical company representatives who set up booths in the exhibit halls at those meetings. Is the divide between the two sides growing larger? Will doctors and pharma reps face more challenges in establishing strong relationships? If you’re a medical meeting planner and you’ve noticed any impact among your attendees and exhibitors, please share your insights in the comments section below.