Congress can’t deny drug ads’ pull

Steve Henn Sep 21, 2007


Bob Moon: The Senate passed a bill last night ensuring new funding for the Food and Drug Administration. The agency is also due to get new powers to monitor drugs more carefully after they hit the market.

But there was one important provision stripped out. Marketplace’s Steve Henn explains.

Zoloft Ad: Zoloft is not for everyone.

Steve Henn: But apparently, pharmaceutical ads on television are for everyone.

Zoloft Ad: Side effects may include dry mouth, insomnia, sexual side effects, diarrhea, nausea and sleepiness.

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences released a report in the wake of the Vioxx scandal, arguing that the FDA needed the power to pull drug ads off the air when there was evidence a drug wasn’t safe.

But the drug industry spent $5.3 billion on advertising last year, and drug ads are the fastest growing segment of the marketing business.

So when Congress wrote a bill giving the FDA new powers to ban some drug ads, it ran into serious opposition. Media companies joined forces with drugmakers to strip that language from the bill.

Instead, the FDA gets new powers to issue warning labels quickly. It also will be able to force drugmakers to study the safety of their products after they hit the market.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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