FDA Fights Losing Battle Over Drug Ads

If you've followed the steady flow of articles I've posted on my Web site about misleading ad campaigns launched by the mega-pharmaceuticals to influence consumers as well as doctors, you've probably wondered why the FDA always seems to be at least two steps behind when it comes to policing them.

Folks, it comes down to the numbers... The agency's drug-marketing enforcement office -- responsible for monitoring more than 30,000 print and broadcast ads, sales brochures to doctors and company Web sites -- employs a staff of just 40 professionals! It was also quite disturbing to learn current enforcement is down considerably in comparison to five years, despite the best efforts of professionals like Dr. David Graham.

Another interesting factoid: The number of complaints the FDA receives annually has stayed about the same (more than 200) and have been largely generated by other mega-drug companies.

Some of the useless drugs I've written about that have attracted the most citations from the FDA:

One good sidebar to this great USA Today piece discusses the multitude of efforts to change the way drugs are marketed in this country, including one that may be very problematic: A Senate bill that would require companies to submit ads and promotional materials 30 days prior to their release dates. One former FDA official believes, however, such a plan wouldn't stand on First Amendment grounds.

And voluntary guidelines proposed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) are just that: Namby-pamby directions doomed to failure.

USA Today May 31, 2005



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