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Executive Summary

Direct-to-consumer advertising that does not mention prescription drugs by name should not be subject to legislative or regulatory actions, according to a resolution adopted by the House of Delegates of the American Pharmaceutical Association's annual meeting, March 12-16. The association concurred with its Public Affairs Policy Committee, which reported that it was "not convinced" that all direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs should be prohibited, "irrespective of its form or purpose." The committee said it "finds little fault with several current examples" of ads that "mention medical conditions or disease states but not specific drug names." Such advertisements, even if they mention the manufacturer-sponsor by name, can "educate consumers about existing conditions which they may not realize that they have" and "can be used positively to inform sufferers that a prescription drug is now available for a condition that previously had been considered untreatable," according to the policy report. The APhA position comes in the wake of letters sent by three key congressmen to the CBS, NBC, and ABC television networks. Reps. Dingell (D-Mich.), Waxman (D-Calif.), and Markey (D-Mass.) wrote that television "should never" broadcast prescription drug ads. The Capitol Hill leaders have been trying to cut off direct-to-consumer campaigns with tough talk ("The Pink Sheet" March 14, p. 18). John Gans, immediate past president of the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists, maintained the APhA policy does not oppose consumer advertising strongly enough. At a meeting of the Public Affairs Committee, Gans said: "If we open the door just slightly with this policy, I can't imagine any pharmaceutical company not spending a lot of money on consumer advertising . . . and that advertising will increase the cost of drugs and the cost of health care." He maintained that pharmacy is "the profession who should be giving the public the information that they need to appropriately use their medications, not Madison Avenue." ASHP is actively opposed to direct-to-consumer ads. Pharmacist counseling on vitamins, mineral, and nutritional supplements is endorsed by a new official APhA policy. As proposed by the Scientific Affairs Policy Committee, the association advocates public "health education regarding unsubstantiated and/or misleading claims" of such products. The association ducked the issue of FDA regs for health claims stating that "although this is a general health concern for the public it should not be a position of APhA policy at this time." Another resolution adopted by APhA delegates "opposes the licensure, registration, or certification" of pharmacy technicians. The resolution further endorses the term "pharmacy technician" to describe those who "assist pharmacists in the performance of professional duties." The Professional Affairs Policy and Reference Committees had proposed the term "supportive personnel," but the proposal was amended before adoption on the floor of the House of Delegates. The Center on Drugs and Public Policy at the University of Maryland will convene a pharmacy educational conference on technical personnel in October. The conference will be funded through a grant by ASHP's Research & Education Foundation. During debate, ex-ASHP President Gans suggested that the resolution's provisions on training and licensure should be postponed until after the conference. APhA Chairman Charles Green announced the status of programs under APhA's "Action Agenda." The Ad Hoc Committee on Women's Affairs, for women pharmacists, held its first meeting during the convention, Green said. The association is planning a National Forum on the Employed Pharmacist, which involves "a program whereby employers may financially assist the pharmacists they employ to become members of their national professional society."

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