June 19, 2003

Legislative Activity


June 19, 2003

The Honorable John Ensign
364 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Ensign:

An amendment to restrict prescription drug advertising may be offered to the Medicare prescription drug legislation that has been reported by the Senate Committee on Finance. The undersigned organizations urge you to vote against this amendment.

Direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs is the most heavily regulated form of advertising. More regulation of this form of commercial speech will result in less information reaching American consumers. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this when it struck down a prohibition on advertising drug compounds by individual pharmacies in Thompson v. Western States Medical Center.

Prescription drug advertising has proven to be a valuable and effective means of informing consumers about diseases that may affect them and for encouraging them to see a physician about health care issues. The National Consumers League surveyed American consumers and concluded that with these ads, "large numbers of consumers are made aware of medical conditions and treatments that they may otherwise not know exist. . . . Often ads help destigmatize conditions [such as depression] that may have otherwise gone untreated due to patient embarrassment and limited medical knowledge." FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan told an advertising industry government affairs conference that DTC advertising particularly helps raise health awareness in underserved populations.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 23 million Americans went to see a doctor to talk about a condition they had never before discussed after seeing a prescription drug ad. This advertising raises disease awareness and can help reach the large numbers of Americans who suffer from undiagnosed diseases. For example, as many as 50 million Americans have high blood pressure, and yet 16 million are unaware they have this silent killer. It also is estimated that a majority of the 58 million Americans who have some form of cardiovascular disease have not been diagnosed.

Advertising, and particularly prescription drug advertising, is a vital means of communicating with American consumers, and we would hope that you would vote against adding any further restriction to this important form of public health information.

Respectfully,

American Advertising Federation
American Association of Advertising Agencies
Association of National Advertisers
Grocery Manufacturers of America
Magazine Publishers of America
National Association of Broadcasters
National Cable and Telecommunications Association
National Newspaper Association
Newspaper Association of America

Contact: Jim Davidson (202) 638-1101