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Rx DRUG ADVERTISING COALITION's FEB. 23 TASK FORCE MEETING

Executive Summary

Rx DRUG ADVERTISING COALITION's FEB. 23 TASK FORCE MEETING will consider strategies for improving consumer access to prescription drug information through mass advertising. One of the objectives of the coalition, whose members find FDA direct-to-consumer advertising regulations overly restrictive, is to consider the practicality of attempts to change current requirements. Described as a "private sector initiative," the coalition will focus largely on broadcast advertising, in which FDA's brief summary requirements are particularly problematic. According to a coalition spokesman, many members consider a brief summary an ineffective mode of communication and believe fair balance can be achieved in an ad by highlighting only major (serious or common) adverse reactions of a drug. Two pharmaceutical manufacturers are among seven "co-organizers" of the coalition, Bristol-Myers and Johnson & Johnson. Other founding members are the CBS and NBC broadcasting networks and three advertising groups: the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers. Other coalition members include Boehringer-Ingelheim, Ciba-Geigy, Smith Kline & French, the Lifetime cable television network, six ad agencies, and two Washington law firms, Royer Shacknai & Mehle and Wiley Rein & Fielding. The task force, which will distribute a position paper after its February meeting intends to consult with FDA, the Federal Trade Commission and other governmental representatives, including Congress, and consumer groups. FDA, consumers and Rep. Dingell (D-Mich.) have been opposed to liberalization of current direct-to-consumer regs. For example, Dingell threatened to hold oversight hearings in 1986 after FDA announced withdrawal of its moratorium on direct-to-consumer ads, and he reviewed prescription drug and guidelines developed by CBS in 1985. In addition, drug companies have expressed liability concerns about direct-to-consumer ads. To date broadcast direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription products has been limited to institutional ads, ads that are not product specific, and ads that address price only and not indications. However, a coalition spokesman maintains that the changing economics of health care requires a review of current restrictions. High ad standards must be assured, the coalition says, but more information must be made available in the area of health maintenance organizations and catastrophic care legislation if the ultimate product users are to make informed decisions.
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