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Media Institute: Roll back drug-ad rules

As lawmakers and regulators mull whether to tighten rules governing
advertising and labeling for prescription drugs, the Media Institute is telling
the government to back off.

"The First Amendment provides no exemption to allow the regulation of speech
about pharmaceutical products," the institute said in comments filed with the
Food and Drug Administration.

Among the rules the drug industry and advertisers opposed is the prohibition
on advertising drugs for uses for which they have not been approved. They opposed
the ban, they said, because some doctors may prescribe medicines for additional
uses once a product comes on the market. The groups cited a Supreme Court ruling this
past summer that struck down a ban on advertising by druggists who reformulate
medicines or mix them from their own bulk supplies.

Advertisers are looking to protect a big new ad category. In 1997, the FDA changed the rules so that pharmaceutical
companies could advertise on TV. In 2000, drug companies spent approximately
$1.4 billion on TV ads, 60 percent of the total $2.5 billion spent on
"direct-to-consumer" prescription-drug advertising, which includes print,
radio and billboards. Prescription-drug makers are now among the top 20 spenders
among TV advertisers.