Congressmen call for more thorough review of direct-to-consumer drug advertising


WASHINGTON Investigating direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription pharmaceutical products, Reps. Bart Stupak and John Dingell, Democrats of Michigan, sent letters Tuesday to companies and government agencies involved.

“We have serious concerns that the leading pharmaceutical companies do not share our commitment to providing consumers with accurate information about drug therapies,” Dingell said in a statement. “As certain drug companies place corporate profits above patient health, it appears they are even willing to ignore FDA recommendations.”

The letters went to FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, Shaw Science Partners president and EthicAd executive director Michael Shaw, Bayer HealthCare president Gary Balkema and Health and Human Services secretary Michael Leavitt.

In their letter to von Eschenbach, the lawmakers questioned the development of an FDA DTC Web site, “Be Smart About Prescription Drug Advertising: What You Should Know about Prescription Drug Advertisements,” which gives examples of proper and improper DTC ads. A news report showed that the developer of the site as EthicAd, a non-profit organization started by Shaw Science Partners, a public relations firm for the pharmaceutical industry.

According to its Web site, Shaw has worked on the launch of more than 30 drugs, including Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit, which was removed from the market due to safety problems.

“It’s shameful that consumers have to rely on the oversight function of Congress to make sure drug companies tell the truth in their ad campaigns,” Stupak said in the statement.

Letter to the FDA:

Letter to Shaw Science Partners:

Letter to EthicAd:

Letter to HHS:

Letter to Bayer HealthCare:

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