Responding to the growing debate over the downside of drug advertising, the American Medical Association has announced that it will undertake a study to determine how pharmaceutical advertising influences prescribing patterns. One possible response -- which is likely to meet with stiff resistance from most of the biopharmaceutical industry -- would be to impose a limited ban on advertising new drugs, giving doctors a chance to learn more about the appropriate uses of a drug before they start prescribing it. Physicians have attracted considerable attention for their passive role in expanding the use of Cox-2 inhibitors like Vioxx, often prescribing them when they were not needed. And new studies have repeatedly underscored that physicians are easily influenced by patients asking for the drugs they see advertised.
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