Senator drafts bill to regulate DTC ads

While the threat of legislation to regulate prescription-drug advertising
seems to be waning in the House, it is growing in the Senate.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is circulating a draft bill that would limit
the amount a drug company could deduct from advertising and marketing to the
amount it spends on research and development.

For example, if a drug company spent $100 million researching and developing
a drug and another $110 million marketing it, the company could only write off
$100 million of the marketing costs.

"If the drug companies dispute these statistics and claim that they spend
more on research and development than advertising, then they should not object
to this bill because it will not affect them," Stabenow said in talking points.

Some senators are noticing that drug companies are increasingly advertising
prescription drugs, and they are worried that such ads boost the cost of these drugs to

"We never saw a prescription drug advertised on an NFL [National Football League] football game five
years ago," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a hearing last month. "We do
now, and still, for the love of me, that may be another topic of another hearing,
but for the love of me, if we have prescriptions, why are we advertising to
consumers? You want to get rid of prescriptions, advertise to consumers. But if
you have the prescriptions, it's sort of a contradiction."

On the House side, Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.)
has said he was considering writing legislation that would regulate
direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

But in a press conference this week, Thomas said that instead, he would try to
include more money for the Food and Drug Administration to review those ads, and
he may also include money for a study on how the ads affect consumers.

What might be stifling Thomas' enthusiasm is the fact that House Energy and
Commerce Committee chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), whose committee has authority
over the FDA, has said he believes that drug companies have a First Amendment right
to run the ads and he does not intend to make any changes to the law that would
affect such advertising.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.