Facts and Drug Facts

  • by: |
  • 09/21/2012

A research letter published in JAMA says “closer attention” should be paid to the lack of risk information in advertising for the OTC switch versions of prescription drugs. Research sponsor CVS Caremark says OTC ads should convey the same information as Rx ads.

Facts are facts – Drug Facts, to be precise. And, no doubt, when prescription drugs become available over-the-counter advertisements are less likely to tell consumers about the potential harms and side effects.

But how little is too little – and how much is too much?

To say (as many now are) that OTC ads should carry the same warnings as their Rx brethren is to assume that Rx warnings are useful. When it comes to, for example, the so-called “Brief Summary,” that’s an open question (and that’s being charitable).  More of what the consumer doesn’t understand isn’t the solution.

Is it the FDA’s responsibility to figure this out? Before we answer that, perhaps a more direct question is, does the FDA have the social science chops to do so? With all due respect to Kit Aikin and crew – this issue will be best resolved through the joint efforts of industry and agency.

And one size may not fit all.

Beyond BTC, it’ll be interesting to see how various Rx-to-OTC applications address the question of consumer education.

Ladies and Gentlemen of industry – it’s time to step up to the plate.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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