Rule by Committee – Curbing DTC Advertisting by Pharmas – Enough to Stave Off Reforms?

Advertising Age carried a June 16 story regarding an agreement by several pharmaceutical manufacturers to curb DTC advertising

Here is a bit of the history of this agreement according to the Energy and Commerce Web site.  Early this year, Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak bega n rattling sabers and demanding that pharmaceutical DTC marketing practices be pulled back.  They had multiple concerns, including the use of black box warnings on ads, the use of actors to portray physicians in commercials, and a focus on very specific practices such as the Dr. Robert Jarvik advertisements for Lipitor by Pfizer.  There was an exchange of many letters, found at the Web site of the Committee and noted here in the past.  This week, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer submitted responses to the Committee whereby they agreed to six-month moratoria on new drug advertising and respecting the use of actors as physicians in commercials.

It is an interesting turn of events.  These concessions do not go nearly as far as the committee wanted respecting restrictions on DTC, which included a minimum two-year moratorium on new drug advertisting, among other things.   I have written before on this blog that it would benefit industry to get ahead of the curve on the coming reforms.  But will these concessions be enough to satisfy the committee? 

It is not likely.  In the first place, it is highly possible that some other ad is going to run that will tick off committee members and renew their zeal for reform.  Secondly, there is just a massive amount of marketing reform, among other reforms, that is pent up and waiting for a new Congress.  And third, when the new Congress comes, there is every reason to believe that there is going to be more appetite for reform, not less.  Those are just a few of the reasons that the belly of the beast will not be satisfied by this effort on the part of industry.   

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