The country's largest doctors group has voted for a ban on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices.
The American Medical Association said Tuesday at a meeting in Atlanta that such ads on television and radio and in magazines drive a demand for expensive pills and medicines when less costly generic drugs are just as effective.
"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," said AMA board chair-elect Patrice Harris. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."
The AMA said the United States and New Zealand are the only two countries that promote drugs directly to patients.
It said U.S. drug companies spend $4.5 billion a year selling their products. But doctors say the cost of promoting the medicines and treatments can make prescriptions too expensive overall and puts patient health at risk.
The AMA is recommending that the federal government limit what it calls anti-competitive behavior by large pharmaceutical houses that doctors say reduces choice and limits much cheaper but still highly effective generic drugs from reaching the market.