Why does one doctor prefer this drug, his colleague that drug? Is a doctor’s selection decision based on clinical evidence and optimized for the benefit of the patient? Or is there another reason?
Thus here comes Bad Ad…but what is Bad Ad?
It is the latest educational outreach program of the US FDA targeting health care professionals about their role in ensuring prescription drug advertising and promotion that is truthful and not misleading. Pharmaceutical companies will do their best to market their products. However, in the case of prescription drugs, sales largely depends on the preference of health care providers. It is not uncommon that the industry provides incentives to doctors to encourage them to prescribe certain products. There is where Bad Ad comes in.
What constitutes as appropriate or inappropriate drug promotion and advertising? A line has to be drawn somewhere and Bad Ad tries to define what is acceptable and what are violations.
According to a letter by US FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg to health care providers:
“The purpose of the Bad Ad Program is twofold: first, to let you know about important steps FDA is taking to prevent misleading or inaccurate promotion of prescription drugs by drug companies; and second, to request your help identifying and reporting these activities. With your valuable assistance, FDA can be more effective in limiting the number of misleading promotional messages directed to health care professionals.”
Aside from recognizing misleading drug advertisement and inappropriate prescription behavior of doctors, the Bad Ad program provides a platform for reporting such misconduct. This may be viewed by many as “ratting” and many health professionals are reluctant to report something that can badly affect a colleague’s career, thus become branded as traitor within his professional circle. However, more and more people are coming forward to report misconduct and unethical behavior with the passage of the Whistleblower’s Act. (In a related topic, check out Testifying Against Your Partner or Colleague: Honor or Betrayal? in Medscape).
The Bad Ad program will be administered by the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) and is being introduced and presented at medical conferences and meetings.
Bad Ad focuses mainly on health professionals. For consumers, a web-based program called EthicAd was set up in 2008. The FDA site shows examples of different types of ads and correct and incorrect ads. Consumers are encouraged to report what they think are violations.