The U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee held a hearing yesterday on an important bill to reform the FDA. For the most part, everybody asked the panel to make the bill stronger, according to a story in the Washington Post. Everybody that is, except the drug industry.
“Now the FDA urgently needs treatment,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy, who will chair the committee in the new Congress. Witnesses testifying included the head of the Institute of Medicine panel that issued a scathing critique of the FDA’s safety efforts, a prominent physician and medical researcher, and Jim Guest, President and CEO of Consumers Union.
When the drug industry had its turn, a spokesperson defended direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs. According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Adrian Thomas of Johnson & Johnson claimed that “DTC advertising plays a valuable role in educating patients about diseases and treatments.”
Yes, drug ads to consumers are so valuable that only two countries on the planet permit them (the U.S. and New Zealand, and New Zealand is reconsidering)! Let’s be clear: real education about one’s health means unbiased information about a disease or condition and ALL alternatives for treatment, including diet or lifestyle changes. “Education” does not mean a constant barrage of 30-second ads selling one particular drug—that’s sales, not education.