Medical device makers are, at last, dipping their toes in the direct to consumer advertising waters. In a January 17th article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Medical device makers get into the ad game, heating up ethics debate reporter Joe Carlson touches on the many issues presented by this development. Once Big Pharma started, most people figured it was only a matter of time. As with advertising by pharmaceutical companies, the issues run deep.
Do these ads run up costs for the health care system? The American Medical Association (AMA) says yes, and they are pushing for a ban on direct to consumer ads for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices, saying the negative impact on costs outweigh the benefits of educating consumers. Will such a ban be effective in the USA? Voluntary bans on broadcast advertising in the distilled spirits markets and similar restrictions for tobacco have seen mixed effects.
Is advertising an implantable medical device an ethical way to educate consumers, consumers who have access to an abundance of similar information on web sites for the AMA, the American Heart Association, WebMD.com and other sources? Like most marketing messages, the assertions such ads make only cover summary benefits and the critical data is often lost in the “small print”.
The FDA is running to keep up as the game changes. Currently, rules for prescription drug advertising are more stringent than they are for medical devices.
This one will be interesting to watch.