Some pharma companies have a policy of waiting six months before advertising new drugs directly to consumers (in part to get physicians up to snuff on the products first).
Should that period be extended to two years, as some have suggested, to save some health-care dollars and allow for a shakeout period of possible harmful effects?
A new issue brief from the Congressional Budget Office looks at the potential effects of that sort of moratorium and concludes it wouldnt likely shake the health-care world to its foundations.
As CBO director Douglas Elmendorf says in an accompanying blog post, newly approved drugs make up a relatively small slice of the overall pharma marketplace. Last year the FDA approved only about 21 new drugs and biologics, and not all new drugs have wide enough appeal to justify a consumer ad campaign. So, Elmendorf says, the magnitude of any effects of a moratorium on direct-to-consumer advertising for newly approved drugs would probably be small.
There could be shifts in the marketing mix and changes to how many prescriptions are written for some drugs, for example, though its not clear in what direction things would go, and it would likely depend on the drug.
As far as public health goes, it all depends. Patients who stand to benefit from a newly approved drug should get it as soon as possible delaying DTC ads might keep some from hearing about a treatment they need. With problematic drugs, it would be great if safety issues that often emerge only when a drug is used in the real world were found before a massive DTC ad campaign has sent millions of consumers running to their physicians seeking a prescription.
Then again, the report notes, many of those safety issues only emerge when drugs are used in a large enough population which might mean the risks wouldnt be discovered early after all.
Health Blog readers, before you head off for the long weekend, tell us what you think.
Hat tip: NPR Shots Blog