Lawmakers, pharma giants spar over deceptive ad practices

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Energy and Commerce Committee members have agreed to discuss business practices with pharmaceutical companies that have accepted some but not all congressional requests related to misleading direct-to-consumer advertising.

The drug makers—Merck, Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, along with Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)—have already agreed to wait six months post-FDA approval to begin advertising to the public and to not use actors to play doctors on television.

At the request of PhRMA, committee leaders have agreed to meet with concerned parties as the trade association reviews and updates its Guiding Principles related to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.

“This is the first part of an ongoing review of DTC advertisements,” said Committee Chair Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich. “We are pleased with PhRMA’s response, and we accept their invitation to discuss revisions to its DTC guiding principles. We understand that the companies did not want to place themselves at a competitive disadvantage at our hearing, but we hope that PhRMA will be more responsive with an industry position that addresses our significant concerns. Regardless, our investigation is not over, as more work clearly needs to be done on this issue.”

Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said, “We hope the discussions with PhRMA will result in an industry position that addresses the concerns that Pfizer, Merck, Schering-Plough and Johnson & Johnson continue to ignore.”

The representatives had sent a letter to drug companies on May 20 requesting a commitment to business practices that would reduce misleading and deceptive DTC advertisements.