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January 10, 2020

King Introduces Bill to Prevent Newly-Approved Drugs from Advertising Directly to Consumers (DTC) for Three Years

U.S. is one of only two countries to allow drug companies to use DTC advertising, a practice seen as increasing costs to patients

PORTLAND, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Responsibility in Drug Advertising Act, which prohibits direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of newly-approved prescription drugs for three years – in order to increase their affordability for Americans, and slow the rising costs associated with ad campaigns. The legislation includes a waiver to allow DTC advertising for a drug whose widespread advertising is determined to have public health value. The U.S. is one of only two developed nations to allow DTC advertising for prescription drugs.

“The widespread use of direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies doesn’t make patients healthier, and it doesn’t reduce costs for patients struggling to access the medicines they need,” said Senator King. “We need to take steps to reduce drug costs and ensure that patients are getting the best information possible – and we can start by making sure newly-approved drugs aren’t allowed to immediately flood the market with ads before we fully understand their impact on the general public. This is an important step to make sure pharmaceutical companies are focused on patients, not profits – and I’ll keep working to hold them accountable.”

In 2016, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $6 billion in DTC advertisements, which can drive up health care costs by steering patients towards more expensive medications. The average American sees nine DTC prescription drug ads each day, and studies show that patients are more likely to ask their doctor for a specific brand-name medication, and doctors are more likely to prescribe one, when they have been marketed directly with drug advertisements. Currently, the United States and New Zealand are the only two developed countries that allow drug companies to use DTC advertising.

Senator King has been a leader in working to reduce prescription drug costs and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the content of their ads. He has joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to introduce bipartisan legislation that require drug companies to list the prices of their drugs in DTC advertisements, mirroring an Administration proposal that was blocked by the courts. He has also introduced legislation to prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses.

In addition to his support of the legislation focused on DTC advertising, Senator King has supported a number of commonsense bills to drive down the costs of medication in the United States. Last month, King-backed legislation to combat anticompetitive practices used by some brand-name drug companies to block entry of lower-cost generic drugs was signed into law. The proposal, which deters pharmaceutical companies from blocking cheaper generic alternatives from entering the marketplace, will save billions of dollars for both the federal deficit and American consumers. Senator King is a strong advocate for preventive healthcare as a way to cut costs and improve public health. In October, he hosted a prevention-focused panel discussion in Bangor with local healthcare providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. He has also backed the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, which would allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries, and the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act, which would allow for Medicare to negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D.    

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