In yet another sign that the FDA is incapable of carrying out its duties to ensure the health and safety of the American public, the FDA has now announced that it will be relying on doctors to police the pharmaceutical companies’ advertising. The American pharmaceutical industry spends literally billions of dollars – around $20 billion annually – on advertising, much of it featuring happy, relaxed patients coupled with barely audible (or legible) rapid-fire whispers of the possible side effects and serious risks. Such advertising tactics are often prohibited by the FDA because they mislead patients about the safety of the drug. Yet this type of advertising is commonplace. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Passen & Powell are increasingly troubled by these advertisements.
Now, the FDA has raised the white flag on enforcing the rules on advertising, asking doctors to monitor advertising instead. The agency’s new “bad ad program” asks doctors to report advertisements and marketing pitches which violate federal law. In particular, pharmaceutical advertising is required to be balanced, providing an assessment of both the benefits and the risks of a particular medication.
As any American who watches tv or reads magazines knows, there are hundreds or thousands of print advertisements for pharmaceuticals at any given time. In addition, drug companies market their products through brochures and marketing presentations distributed to doctors. Yet the FDA has only a few dozen staffers assigned to review all such advertising for compliance. Even when FDA staffers do notice a problem with a particular advertisement, because of the lack of FDA resources warning letters are often not issued until the advertisement has been out for months, and at times after the advertisement is no longer in use.
Now, the FDA will rely on doctors to help it spot misleading advertising. The FDA plans to provide training to doctors who attend medical conferences to help them fulfill this new role. Doctors will then be able to report misleading advertisements anonymously through phone or email. While our personal injury attorneys encourage doctors to receive the training and report any problematic advertising they see, we are concerned that this will lead to further abdication by the FDA of its responsibility to itself provide a check on the greed of drug manufacturers.
In other words, the doctors who are given free pharmaceutical companies to
Unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry supports the new program. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a lobbying group representing almost all of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies (including Pfizer, Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline) hails the new program as an improvement in patient education and safety, rather than as a step away from agency responsibility for patient protection towards reliance on reporting that doctors have every incentive and natural inclination not to undertake.
This is why civil personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are such an important tool for reigning in the pharmaceutical industry. This column has previously discussed the drug companies’ irresponsible conduct, and the fact that the FDA either can’t or won’t put a stop to it. The sad truth is that only lawsuits by those who are injured can protect other patients from the corporate desire to place profit above safety concerns. If you or someone you love has suffered serious side effects or injury from a pharmaceutical product, especially if you relied upon advertising when deciding to begin using that product, you may have a cause of action. Our pharmaceutical drug attorneys can help you determine whether you have a claim, and to pursue justice on behalf of yourself, and others who may be injured if these irresponsible practices are not stopped.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago wrongful death lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.