The comments are dribbling in to FDA regarding whether or how it should regulate the use of the Internet by drug companies for promotion of its products. Either that, or www.regulations.gov, which is collecting the comments here, has a growing prostate problem that affects its information release “stream.”
Each week I will take a look at the site and see what new comments have been made public. You can find the first bunch here. I include a selection of the more juicy ones below. I especially focus on those submitted by individuals, most of whom are critical of pharmaceutical marketing and advertising. I do this because these voices were noticeably ABSENT from the “public” hearing in mid-November.
Michael E. Bailey/individual:
The manufacturers of medications and their representatives must be held accountable for each claim they put on any online media concerning their products because the public health and safety demands it. There maybe some online media that are not suited for drug advertising because of the space limitations involved. There may not be enough space for the important risk information that needs to come with the claims. It is too risky and dangerous to allow the drug company claims alone without the risk information. It is not enough to put in a link that you can click on to take you to another site to get the risk information because many people won’t do that and will only read the claims of the drug company that it puts up on the social media. But they should always provide a link to the FDA website for people who want an unbiassed and fair assessment of the drug, and so people can report bad reactions to the drug. Thank you and best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.
Bruce Overman Jr/Individual:
I and many, many others are very much against any further promotion or advertising of Food and Drug Administration-Regulated Medical Products, particularly prescription drugs. I am very much in favor of outlawing the existing practice of advertising prescription drugs. Billions of dollars are spent by pharmaceutical companies to advertise drugs, confusing and misleading the public, most of whom do not have the expertise needed to make proper judgments where these drugs are concerned. This massive amount of money should, instead, be used to reduce the cost of these drugs.
The last thing this country needs is MORE advertising by drug companies. Prescription drugs need to be administered by doctors acting in the best interest of their patients. Patients need to talk to their doctor about a medical “problem”, and let the doctor determine the best treatment. Drug ads serve only to feed hypochondria in the public. Marketing of drugs and the costs of advertising serve only to drive up prescription drug costs in America. Our capitalist system is out of control, driving Americans to spent money frivolously. Let’s not expand advertising opportunities, let rein them in and recind the rules which allow drug companies to advertise anywhere except medical journals intended for doctors. How many more erectile dysfunction ads do we need to be subjected to?
I believe transparency is requested for all of the healthcare industry. Prior to twitter, facebook etc. the public was posting comments on drugs (pros and cons). I have googled drugs by their marketed and generic names to read about other peoples’ experiences. I had some reactions to a steroid medication I was prescribed and wanted to find others who might have experienced the same. Doing a search and finding the right forum was extremely difficult and time consuming. A drug makers facebook page or a separate page for each drug was available, it would have made life much easier. A Facebook etc with non-censored updates, stories and comments etc. would have helped me and been faster. If the drug companies and insurance companies (although this is not the topic for the FDA)agree not to censor comments and stories, this is e a great avenue for information exchange. The pros and cons of a drug are more easily assessed through other peoples experiences and comments. Regulations and laws have forced the drug industry to use very complex wording in the packaging (in good faith of full disclosure) however this not helpful to the consumer but overwhelming. I would much rather go to a social media site and view what the possible tangible experiences are so that I may weigh my options and assess the risk. If the FDA chooses to regulate social media I do not see how this is a move toward transparency. The more the FDA represses communication avenues the less people feel informed. Regulating the censoring of comments etc. should be enforced but there are too many loopholes in trying to prevent the healthcare industry from engaging in new communication avenues. The FDA should encourage communication between patients and drug makers. Not only will this help the drug companies to assess needs and fill gaps but consumers are more likely to make their voices heard and feel empowered.
Medical products must always state side effects. I recommend that the FDA increase regulation to include that Internet users must always be presented with an easily readable screen describing side effects and an acknowledgement button before users can proceed onto any “features” or “benefits” of medical products.