Viagra, Imitrex, Allegra, Requip, Lunesta, Claritin--weâ€™ve all heard of them. It seems that every time you turn on a TV you see a commercial for the latest and greatest from the world of prescription drugs. Under a Republican-controlled Congress in 1997, drug companies gained the ability to market prescription drugs directly to the public and the Golden Age of drug advertising was born. Since then, drug company spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising increased twice as fast from 1997 through 2005 as spending on promotion to physicians or R&D. Having seen drugs advertised in print, online and TV, the public has become increasingly familiar with many brand-name drugs and often asks for them by name when consulting their doctors. This has led critics to point out that DTC pharma advertising creates a huge demand for expensive drugs despite the fact that less expensive generic drugs may work just as well.
A new GAO report finds fault with the FDAâ€™s handling of DTC advertising, saying that the FDA doesnâ€™t properly regulate the content drug companies present to the public. The report states that the FDA takes too long to review the commercials and acts too slowly in stopping misleading or inappropriate ads. The report recommends that FDA document criteria for prioritizing DTC materials for review, systematically apply its criteria to materials it receives, and track which materials it reviews. The GAO says these steps are necessary to limit consumersâ€™ exposure to false or misleading advertising.
Read the GAO report