Reps from U.S. House call for better ad practices from pharma giants

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House Reps. Take on marketing of pharma industry. Source: Patent Docs  

House Reps. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., Tuesday sent letters to CEOs of four large drug companies, asking them to commit to marketing practices that would reduce misleading and deceptive direct-to-consumer advertisements (DTCA) for prescription drugs.

The representatives wrote to pharmaceutical companies Merck, Pfizer, Schering-Plough and Johnson & Johnson.

Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Stupak, chairman of the committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said the companies failed to provide any assurances about future business practices relating to DTCAs.

“Consumers should not have to rely on the oversight function of Congress to make sure drug companies tell the truth in their ad campaigns,” Stupak said.

The letters request that the companies agree to a series of guidelines, including adding a toll-free number at the bottom of their TV commercials to encourage consumers to report negative side effects of prescription drugs. Congress has asked the FDA to study whether adding the number, which is required in print ads for prescription drugs, would be an effective way to learn about harmful side effects.

Dingell and Stupak also asked the companies if they would commit to putting black box warnings - which usually include risks of fatality - in TV ads if the FDA requires the warnings for a drug's label. The lawmakers also want the companies to agree not to market off-label uses of their drugs.

The letters asked the companies for an immediate response because the representatives said they are considering holding a second congressional hearing on DTCA. The letters said that the companies’ response “will determine the nature as well as the role of you and your company in the hearing.”