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Consumers Can Decide Future of TV Drug Ads

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:23 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Toxic Substances

Consumers Union would like you to sign a petition requiring tv ads for drugs to have 800 number to report adverse events.


We see drug ads with smiling, content people. Why not also prominently display an 800 number so those not so satisfied with the drug can report adverse effects?

Consumers Union says a toll-free number and web address should be prominently displayed on all television drug ads to make it easier for consumers to report the drug's side effects. 

The consumer group is collecting 50,000 signatures on a petition to forward to the Food and Drug Administration.  The "Prescription for Change Campaign" will encourage the FDA to require all TV ads for prescription and over-the-counter drugs include a toll-free number and web address. 

Last September, Congress approved a bill that required all drug print ads to have adverse health information included. Congress left it up to the FDA to decide whether that requirement should extend to TV ads.  

With all the glossy good news about drugs, some side effects need to be included, the consumer group says.

WoodyMatters.com is co-author of the petition.  The web site is dedicated to “Woody” who killed himself after five weeks on Zoloft which he took for insomnia. Woody had no idea about the drug's side effects.

Kim Witczak, founder of the drug safety group WoodyMatters, said in a prepared statement, "Safety problems sometimes emerge when a drug is on the market and taken by millions of people. Adverse event reporting can provide the FDA with real-time information about problem medicines." 

Most drug adverse events occur within the first three years after FDA approval.

Drug makers are required to report adverse side effects yet many reports are never made. In 2004, just 21,000 of 423,000 adverse event reports came from doctors and patients reported by the Institute of Medicine.

So the data collected by the FDA’s reporting system, MedWatch, could represent just a fraction of actual adverse events. 

“The average TV viewer spends about 100 minutes watching drug ads for every minute spent in a doctor’s office. What better way than to let consumers know how to report a problem with their medications than to put a phone number or Web address in those ads?” said Liz Foley, grassroots coordinator with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. #

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