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The FDA Asks Doctors to Look for "Bad Ads"

By Admin on May 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The FDA will begin asking doctors to watch out for "bad ads" or misleading advertisements as part of the agency's efforts to police the pharmaceutical industry's multi-billion-dollar advertising machine. The new effort, dubbed The Bad Ad Program, is a new plan designed to ensure integrity in the pharmaceutical industry.

Under the new plan, doctors will be asked report data on ads to the FDA. Drug companies are required to present a fair and balanced picture of a drug's benefits, risks, positives and negatives. Many people believe that pharmaceutical advertising fails to comply.

Currently, less than fifty FDA members review thousands of different materials from drug ads, including power point presentations, commercials, brochures and more. The materials are voluntarily submitted by the pharmaceutical industry.

Drug-makers spend billions, perhaps as much as $20 billion per year, to advertise and promote their product. Nearly one quarter of it goes to direct advertising to patients. Direct advertising, such as TV commercials telling patients to "ask their doctor if [a drug] is right for them," draws concern because many health advocates charge that direct advertising encourages patients to ask for drugs, which leads to over-prescribing of medications.

Under the new program, the FDA has a toll free phone number that doctors can use to anonymously report Bad Ads. The number is 877-RX-DDMAC. The e-mail address is

Thomas Abrams, director of the FDA's drug advertising division, believes this is a significant step forward. "The Bad Ad Program will help health care providers recognize misleading prescription drug promotion and provide them with an easy way to report this activity to the agency."

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