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Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Opposed By ACP Chair of Board of Regents Before Senate Special Committee on Aging

September 29, 2005

(Washington, DC) “If direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads continue to generate a fairly large volume of inappropriate demand and overutilization, they could end up costing the federal government billions of dollars.” That was the message Donna Sweet, M.D., FACP, chair of the American College of Physicians (ACP) Board of Regents, delivered to the Senate Special Committee on Aging this morning at a hearing on the Impact of DTC Advertising on Seniors’ Health and Health Care Costs.

Most of an internist’s patients are Medicare-eligible and are among the most adversely affected by direct-to-consumer DTC advertising. Dr. Sweet told the group that, “issues of therapeutic equivalence and cost-effectiveness are particularly important in light of Medicare’s new drug benefit.”

“Since 1998, ACP has voiced its opposition to the practice of DTC advertising” Dr. Sweet said. “DTC advertising of prescription drugs often leaves patients confused and misinformed about medications. It undermines the patient-physician relationship and impedes the practice of medicine by challenging the individual physician’s medical judgment.”

A practicing physician in Wichita, Kan., Dr. Sweet spoke on behalf of the nation’s largest medical specialty society, which represents more than 119,000 doctors of internal medicine and medical students. ACP was the only physician organization invited to testify at the hearing.

Surveys show that patients ask for a prescription based on an advertisement in up to 7 percent of doctor visits – a rate that adds up to millions of requests a year. Dr. Sweet told the Senate committee that, “unnecessary spending further weighs down our health system when equally effective alternatives prove to be less expensive.”

To minimize the negative effects of DTC advertising, Dr. Sweet pointed out that ACP supports a series of three recommendations involving:

Federal regulations and guidelines to ensure ads are neither false nor misleading; Physician organizations partnering with pharmaceutical companies to create and disseminate educational tools and information for physicians as well as patients on effective practices for disease treatment; and Government studies to further measure the impact of OTC ads.

Dr. Sweet concluded her remarks by noting that, “in addition to patient misperceptions, DTC advertising results in inefficient use of valuable physician time, challenges a physician’s professional authority, inflates the cost of drugs, and can ultimately compromise patient access to life-saving treatments.”

The American College of Physicians, she emphasized, “asks that the Committee consider recommending that the use of direct-to consumer ads be prohibited.”

The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 119,000 internal medicine physician (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internists specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illness in adults.

David Kinsman, (202) 261-4554, dkinsman@acponline.org
Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org

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