October 2, 2001
FDA Plans Probe of Prescription Drug Direct Marketing
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to launch a
major probe into the multibillion-dollar direct marketing of prescription
medications to consumers.
The probe, set to begin early year, will seek to determine the accuracy of
the advertising claims about prescription medications marketed to consumers
through direct mail, over the Internet and through direct response radio,
television and print ads.
The probe will also explore whether the government needs to control the
practice, also known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug marketing, through
The FDA plans to kick off its probe with a random nationwide telephone
survey of 775 consumers and 500 doctors, asking them for their views on the
potential benefits and pitfalls of DTC prescription drug marketing.
Respondents will also be asked how they learned about the medication and if
they read or understood all of the advertising claims. While consumers will
be asked if they discussed having the prescriptions filled through a direct
marketer, doctors will be asked to give their views on the subject.
In recent years directly marketed prescription drugs has grown to a
multibillion dollar industry, according to the Federal Trade Commission,
which has overlapping jurisdiction with the FDA over the advertising,
labeling and promotion of foods, over-the-counter drugs, cosmetics and
The FTC staff said in a recent report that in 1999, the last year for which
figures are available, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $1.13
billion marketing prescription medications through direct response
television ads alone. The report did not indicate how much money was spent
on direct response radio and print ads or how much money was spent on direct
Newsline, Paul M. Alberta