In response to a request for public comment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the staff of the Federal Trade Commission filed a comment on December 1, 2003 regarding direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals. The staff’s response analyzes the overall economic effects of such advertising and provides the FDA with a number of suggestions about how its regulatory scheme for DTC advertising could be modified to communicate information to consumers in an easy to understand and accessible way.
According to the staff’s comment, which can be found as a link to this press release on the FTC’s Web site, “Empirical evidence suggests that the FDA’s current approach to regulating DTC advertising generally benefits consumers.” Survey evidence suggests, according to the staff, that “DTC ads have provided consumers with useful information about the drug options open to them,” and this has “empowered consumers to interact with physicians more effectively.” The comment further states that the available evidence does not support concerns that DTC advertising has increased the sale of inappropriate drugs or led to increased drug prices.
The staff comment also makes the following suggestions regarding how the FDA’s DTC advertising regulatory scheme could be modified to communicate truthful, non-misleading information in a way that is easier for consumers to understand and use:
In concluding its comment, the FTC staff writes, “DTC advertising can play an important role in providing information about prescription drugs that may spur consumers to seek help for a previously untreated condition, encourage them to talk with a doctor about a new drug, or otherwise take a more proactive role in minding their health. We therefore encourage the FDA to examine ways to facilitate the flow of truthful, non-misleading information in DTC advertising in a manner that is easy for consumers to understand and access.”
The Commission vote authorizing staff to issue the comment in response to the FDA’s request was 5-0.
NOTE: The views expressed in the letter are those of the staff of the FTC’s Bureaus of Consumer Protection and Economics and the Office of Policy Planning, and do not necessarily represent those of the Commission or any individual Commissioner.
Copies of the comment to the FDA are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Office of Policy Planning
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. V040002)