The largest group of American doctors just called for a massive change in how we advertise drugs

Doctors want to stop US drug companies from advertising directly to the public, the American Medical Association said Tuesday, according to Bloomberg Business.

In a reversal of its previous position, the country’s largest group of doctors voted at a meeting in Alabama to put a stop to advertising drugs via TV commercials and magazine ads, saying they make patients seek out expensive treatments and artificially inflate demand for the drugs.

The US and New Zealand are the only countries that allow drug companies to engage in direct-to-consumer advertising that includes product claims. Canada allows drugs ads that mention either the product or what it’s supposed to do, but not both.

Most other countries have banned this form of advertising.

And US drug ad spending has been on the rise. Pharmaceutical companies spent an estimated $US4.53 billion on advertising in 2014, up from $US3.83 billion in 2013, Fierce Pharm Marketing reported.

In 2006, the AMA called for a temporary ban on direct-to-consumer advertising, but voted in favour of the practice in 2007.

Proponents of direct-to-conusmer advertising claim that advertising educates consumers about available treatments.

“Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising,” Tina Stow, a spokeswoman for the industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, told Bloomberg.

But critics argue that the ads are often biased and misleading, and raises the cost of these drugs.

“Drugs aren’t like everything else, people don’t need to be sold on the newest and brightest drug,” Lisa Schwartz, a professor of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, told BuzzFeed News, adding that drug ads don’t do a good job of educating people about a medication’s risks and benefits.

However, the AMA’s policy recommendations say nothing about social media advertising, such as Kim Kardashian’s Instagram post about a morning sickness drug, which the FDA ordered be taken down.

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