According to a new Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive poll, a majority of Americans support a proposal to limit direct-to-consumer advertising of new prescription drugs when they first come to market. Thirty-five percent of those polled say they would favor a mandatory ban of advertising for the new drugs, and another 16% support a voluntary ban, according to the online poll of 2,207 U.S. adults.
What’s more important is that the public seems to be losing faith in the FDA’s ability to properly oversee DTC. According to the same poll, there is little confidence among Americans that the FDA is ensuring the accuracy of prescription drug advertising. Thirty-five percent of those polled say the FDA is doing an excellent or good job of monitoring drug advertising, while 61% feel it is doing a fair or poor job. And their not half wrong.
Part of the solution (apart from more funding) is for the FDA to put some “science” into the “social science” of DTC regulation. FDA needs a solid benchmark study to serve as a foundation for the agency’s final policy decision; a social-scientific protocol, a quantitative research project composed of structured, closed-ended questions and a sample size representative of the U.S. population with regard to geography, race, gender, age, and the treatment/disease of interest. A study armed with questions that would provide insight into the most effective ways to communicate risks in ways that are understood by the reader. A study that would provide a social science-based regulatory framework, potential templates, metrics and, most importantly, add predictability to the DDMAC review process.
If we want the public to trust FDA’s expertise in regulating drug advertising and marketing communications, some solid science would certainly help.