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Executive Summary

APhA CONSENT DECREE ON Rx PRICE ADVERTISING SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED to allow the assn. to take a position on direct-to-consumer advertising by Rx drug mfrs., the Justice Dept. argued in a recent filing in Grand Rapids, Mich., Federal Court. "Modifying the decree to allow the APhA [American Pharmaceutical Assn.] a broader advocacy role in the public debate would frustrate the U.S.'s objectives in eliminating APhA's long-standing and effective anticompetitive campaign against pharmaceutical advertising," Justice told Judge Wendell Miles. The 1981 consent decree eliminated APhA's policy against Rx price advertising by pharmacists. According to the Justice Dept., APhA would like the order modified so it can "formulate and disseminate before governmental bodies, or anywhere else, policy statements and resolutions condemning all advertising of Rx drugs by anyone other than pharmacists." Justice said APhA suggested the modification was justified because the consent order "solely involved [the assn.'s] efforts to eliminate price advertising of Rx drugs by pharmacists." Justice said APhA's rationale for opposing drug mfr. advertising -- because such advertising has "the potential to interfere" with the relationship between a patient and his doctor or pharmacist -- "can not easily be distinguished from the rationale for APhA's original opposition to advertising by its pharmacist-members." According to Justice, APhA argued in 1981 that pharmacist pricing information was "dangerous and inherently misleading" to consumers. Justice said APhA's activities in that instance "were motivated by economic self-interest and APhA's paternalistic attitude toward customers." Justice pointed out that the decree "does not enjoin other persons, including APhA officials, from presenting their views, as individuals, to govt. entities" nor "enjoin APhA from collecting factual information from its membership pertaining to pharmaceutical advertising and disseminating that information to a govt. entity." The consent decree will expire in 1991.

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