Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is introducing legislation to end the tax break for drug makers who participate in direct-to-consumer advertising in an effort to encourage drug companies to focus on developing new drugs instead of “marketing schemes” to drive up profits.
The move comes two weeks after Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced a bill that would place a three-year moratorium on advertising newly approved prescription medications to consumers, and four months after the American Medical Association called for a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising.
Franken argued that this form of marketing increases the price of prescription drugs and the ads “encourage Americans to buy the most expensive drugs, even when cheaper, equally effective drugs are on the market,” he said. “This is just a common sense measure to help cut down health care costs.”
Drug companies spend about $3.6 billion on advertising aimed at consumers during the first half of last year – a 12.5 percent increase compared to the same time period in 2014.
Direct-to-consumer advertising encourages consumers to ask doctors for prescription medications by name and in some cases, prompts people to request treatments for conditions they may not have. For example, manufacturers of testosterone replacement products have used consumer advertising to promote a condition they coined “Low T,” with side effects ranging from low libido and muscle loss to weight gain. The result was skyrocketing sales of testosterone products.
Testosterone replacement therapy is designed for men with hypogonadism, a condition in which men produce too little testosterone due to injury or disease. It is not intended for age-related hypogonadism. Doctors are encouraged to test men’s testosterone levels to determine whether the treatment is necessary, but research has shown that many doctors don’t test men before prescribing the hormone.
Whether testosterone treatments actually help improve libido and muscle mass is debatable. Some studies show the drugs may cause more harm than good. Recent studies have shown that men who use testosterone therapies are at a 30 percent increased risk of heart attack, stroke or death after the first three years of use.
Source: Stat News