In the United States, drug advertisements will become more intelligible. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration updated its regulations regarding prescription drug advertisements shown on television or radio. The change will specifically require that side effects and other potential dangers of a drug “must be presented in a clear, conspicuous and neutral manner.”
This update has been in the works for a long time. In 2007, the federal government passed legislation that extended the authority of the FDA, which explicitly required drug advertisements to be very clear about side effects and contraindications (situations in which a person should probably avoid a drug, such as during pregnancy). The FDA first proposed a rule describing how this requirement should be met in 2010, but it is only now being finalized and implemented.
THE new rule sets out five standards that prescription drug advertisements must meet when marketing their products to customers. These are:
- That each piece of information contained in the ad “must be presented in user-friendly and easily understandable language and terminology.”
- That the audio information regarding the side effects and contraindications of a drug be at least as understandable as the rest of the advertising. Notably, this standard also applies to the pace of this information, which should apparently eliminate the frantic list of side effects at the end. become a meme at this point.
- That television advertisements present text explaining the side effects of a drug along with the audio portion and that this text be left long enough so that it can be read easily.
- That any textual information presented during a television advertisement be formatted to be easily readable.
- And that advertising avoids any audio or visual elements that might prevent people from understanding information about the negative effects of a drug.
The new guidelines only apply to advertisements for prescription drugs, not over-the-counter medications or supplements, since advertising for these products is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. Changes will not happen instantly. The rule won’t go into effect until 180 days after it’s officially published, and it will be a full year before the FDA begins enforcing it.
The United States is only one of two major countries (along with New Zealand) that allows drugs to be marketed in the first place. Organizations like the American Medical Association have long condemned practice, arguing that an inordinate focus on marketing has helped drive up drug costs. And studies have find that these advertisements generally do not provide customers with the most accurate or useful information.