American Medical Association Calls for Ban of Prescription Drug Ads

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It doesn’t matter what you’re watching–it’s almost impossible to get through a TV program without seeing at least a few ads for prescription drugs. But is the constant barrage of drug ads a good thing? The American Medical Association (AMA) has decided no, and is calling for a ban on direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs.

At the 2015 Interim Meeting, hundreds of AMA delegates voted for the ban. There were a few different motivations cited for why the AMA called for the ban, including the fact that the constant exposure to ads push more expensive treatments and inflate the cost of certain drugs. The U.S. is somewhat unique when it comes to allowing direct-to-consumer ads; currently Australia is the only other nation that allows the practice.

In a statement released yesterday, the AMA further explained the main motivations for its decision. AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A stated:

Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices. Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.


Physicians strive to provide the best possible care to their patients, but increases in drug prices can impact the ability of physicians to offer their patients the best drug treatments. Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patient’s health plan. In a worst-case scenario, patients forego necessary treatments when drugs are too expensive.

This decision by the AMA is actually a departure from its traditional policies, which supported direct-to-consumer drug ads as long as they were informational and accurate. But an uptick of the ads in recent years appear to have swayed the AMA away from that acceptance. Approximately $4.5 billion was spent to direct-advertise drugs to consumers in 2014 alone, an increase of about 20 percent from 2013. As a result of these ads, many drugs are easily recognized by the general public–Viagra, Cialis, Humira, Lyrica, and Eliquis rank as the most advertised drugs of 2014. In fact, these ads have become so ubiquitous, predictable, and common that they’ve even sparked plenty of parodies: 

The fact that the AMA has removed its support for direct-to-consumer drug ads doesn’t really mean much right now, but the organization is planning on reviewing its options in the next few weeks to determine how it will go about advocating for a ban. So, we may see a whole lot less “talk to your doctor ads” in coming years–and it’s easy to imagine that will be a good thing.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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