Thoughts from the John

  • by: |
  • 10/29/2007
Seems as though John Edwards must have been absent during the law school lecture on the US Constitution – specifically the part that relates to Freedom of Speech. In a speech the other day he called for, among other things, mandatory FDA approval before drug companies launch major ad campaigns.

Must have tested well in focus groups.

Similar bloviation during debate over FDA reform was quickly dismissed because of some more educated members of Congress familiarity with the First Amendment.

But, as we all know, facts and reality have very little to do with Presidential campaigns.

Further proof of this was Senator Edwards’ remark that drug advertising misleads patients and drives up health care costs.

Neither of these statements is true. As to “misleads patients,” what DTC does do is send patients (aka – consumers) into the offices of their physicians were they have important dialogue about their health. In many of these DTC-initiated visits a previously undiagnosed condition is diagnosed. And earlier diagnosis and treatment decreases health care costs.

As to whether or not DTC increases the cost of medicines, consider this – when you compare the prices of medicines within a given therapeutic category along with their spending on DTC, there is no correlation. Also, when you compare the amount of money spent on DTC versus research and development – they don’t even have the same number of zeroes.

According to Edwards, "The excessive costs of prescription drugs are straining family budgets and contributing to runaway health care costs.”

Another nice sound bite that belies the truth. Only 11.5% of the US health care spend is on pharmaceuticals – the same pharmaceuticals that keep people out of the hospital (over 30% of our health care expense). Proper medication keeps people healthy, at work, and paying taxes.

But that’s not as popular a sound bite in Iowa and New Hampshire (where Senator Edwards shared his comments with primary voters).

"With such aggressive and often misleading drug company marketing, it's too easy for advertising -- instead of doctors or proven results -- to influence families' health decisions," Edwards' campaign quoted him as saying.

Often misleading? Really? Does he even know about “fair balance” and “adequate provision?” Does he even know about the research that shows how few people actually even try to read various brief summaries?

Probably not. And that would explain why the “Edwards Plan” also calls for drug advertising to disclose more information about side effects and comparisons of drugs against placebos and alternatives.

Someone should ask him about this during the next candidate debate. (And speaking of “comparisons,” someone should also ask him about his understanding of comparative effectiveness.)

Further, the Edwards plan would institute a two-year delay on consumer advertising of all new drugs.

So, not only do we not really need Freedom of Speech – we also don’t need new and timely information about new and timely medicines.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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