What Would Our Health Care Community Look Like Without DTC Advertising?


ASHP's House of Delegates recently adopted a policy to call on Congress to ban direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.

During the 2016 American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Summer Meetings, the ASHP House of Delegates adopted a policy to call on Congress to ban direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising.

This policy comes shortly after the American Medical Association (AMA) took the same stance in November, citing increasing drug prices and greater patient demand for more expensive medications. Previously, ASHP’s stance on DTC advertising was to only oppose ads that didn’t meet certain minimum requirements, like not being misleading.

Currently, the FDA and its Office of Prescription Drug Promotion are responsible for ensuring that the information presented by drug companies to both health care professionals and patients is “truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated.” The agencies lean on reviewers, as well as the Bad Ad program, to ensure that pharmaceutical advertising meets these standards.

That’s certainly a great responsibility, and as a health care professional, I don’t entirely believe that all ads are presented in a balanced manner. In fact, I think a ban on DTC advertising would be beneficial in the long term for all parties involved: pharmacists, physicians, patients, and drug companies.


If Congress passes this ban, it would be a huge win for the pharmacy profession. As the experts in medication therapy, pharmacists should be at the forefront of making evidence-based recommendations for patients.

In adopting this policy, ASHP is advocating for patients to get medication education and recommendations straight from their pharmacists, instead of their televisions. That would be a huge step toward all pharmacists practicing at the top of their degrees.


Similarly, physicians would be free to use their professional judgment to prescribe medications. Many physicians have indicated to the AMA that the increased amount of pharmaceutical ads is driving demand from patients to request new, expensive treatments, despite the availability and effectiveness of cheaper options.


In a health care community without DTC advertising, patients would have to seek information about treatments outside of commercials aired during their favorite TV shows. This would give them the opportunity to have open communication with their pharmacists and physicians about their disease states, trusting our professional opinions and the evidence-based medicine that comes with it.

Drug Companies

It’s no surprise drug companies would see a DTC advertising ban as negative. After all, they spend billions of dollars to develop new drugs and bring them to market, so to turn a profit, they need to reach individuals who will purchase their drugs.

However, ASHP reasons that drug companies could take the money they spend on DTC advertising and put it towards further research and drug development.

Overall, I think a health care community without DTC advertising would foster communication among pharmacists, patients, and physicians.

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