The American Medical Association (AMA) called for a ban on advertising for prescription drugs and medical devices on Tuesday. The group insists that ads encourage patients to prefer more expensive treatments to more affordable ones which are equally effective but at a better price.

The money spent on advertising raises healthcare costs according to AMA. In an effort to promote more affordable prescription drugs, the group made the announcement of the vote result during its annual meeting in Atlanta.

“Today’s vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” AMA board chair-elect, Patrice A. Harris, claimed. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”

Currently, only the United States and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. Over the past two years, pharmaceutical companies’ spending on advertising and marketing increased by 30 percent to $4.5 billion.

The AMA will urge federal regulators to limit the companies’ anti-competitive behaviour which is a barrier to competition from generic manufacturers through their misuse of regulatory exclusivity incentives and manipulation of patent protections. The group will also monitor pharmaceutical company mergers and acquisitions and their possible effects on drug prices.

The pharmaceutical industry does not support AMA's viewpoint, Associated Press reports. They maintain that ads help patients know more about the diseases and their treatments.

“Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising,” Tina Stow of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America told Bloomberg. She adds that accurate details about diseases and treatment options promote effective doctor-patient relationship.

The AMA hopes that the transparency of the factors that contribute to prescription drug pricing, will help patients and healthcare providers comprehend how drug manufacturers set prices. However, Reuters emphasises that AMA did not address how the ban can be enacted without infringing on the freedom to commercial speech protected by the U.S.

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