Franken Bill Presupposes Doctors and Patients are Stupid

October 23rd, 2009 by DCPatient Leave a reply »

@PharmaGuy and I exchanged several tweets yesterday afternoon debating the merits of the Senate bill introduced by the junior Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.  The title of the bill is the “Protecting Americans from Drug Marketing Act” the purpose of which is to deny the tax deduction for advertising and promotional expenses for prescription pharmaceuticals.

Reasons I’ve heard over the years why pharma direct to consumer advertising is bad:

  • Misleads patients into thinking that you can have intimate relations while soaking in separate bath tubs on the beach (sorry, that’s just my confusion)
  • Causes patients to spontaneously come up with symptoms and trick them into believing that there is something their doctors can do about them to make their lives better (no, still me)

You know you scoffed at restless leg syndrome until they found the gene

  • Ok, please leave some comments telling me why Americans are too stupid to risk being subjected to advertising on pharmaceutical products as opposed to any others and why physicians are too tired from explaining that antibiotics can’t cure a cold to resist writing a prescription for anything and everything a patient mentions during their 15 minute visit.  Here’s a start from Public Citizen http://www.citizen.org/publications/release.cfm?ID=7402

But the bill goes on to define advertising and promoting as “includ[ing] direct to consumer advertising in any media and any activity [emphasis mine] designed to promote the use of a prescription pharmaceutical directed to providers or others who may make decisions about the use of prescription pharmaceuticals (including the provision of product samples, free trials, and starter kits).”

So not only are patients not to be trusted, but physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and a host of healthcare professionals are also apparently unable to discern risks and benefits and decode pharmaceutical advertising and promotional activities.  Things that may arguably fall under this definition:

  • Sales rep and medical science liaison salaries (isn’t everything they do for the purpose of directly or indirectly promoting the use of the products – so longto those tens of thousands of jobs

(For that matter so long to all the positions in PR and advertising that support pharma — Obama didn’t REALLY want jobs created this year anyways)

  • Medication adherence programs (they promote the use of pharmaceutical products)
  • Patient Assistance hotlines and programs like TogetherRxAccess (ok, maybe you can still have them, you just can’t advertise and let patients know that they are there)
  • Patient or physician education programs raising awareness of a disease  (learning about diabetes may encourage people to actually take the treatments)

Now negation of the tax deduction is not the same as outlawing the practice, but it is close when you consider the pressure for profits from Wall Street and the realities of running a business. Please leave this type of regulation to FDA which has the expertise, if funds are properly appropriated, to craft reasonable remedies in the Risk Communication Committee and DDMAC.

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