Lucrative DTC TV Ads Threatened By Potential Ban

On the eve of TV's upfront advertising market, a cloud over prescription drug advertising could mean major cutbacks for TV sellers.

An unexpected Senate vote next week on a Food and Drug Administration bill that is sponsored by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyoming, would allow the FDA to ban DTC for new drugs for up to two years.

The bill is intended to curb many false and misleading ads. Network-backed media groups charge that this move could be a violation of free speech. They argue that information in TV ads prompts viewers to ask questions of their doctors.

During the mid-to-late 1990s, the advertising for prescription drugs zoomed to some $4.5 billion--with TV receiving the bulk of these revenues.

Industry analysts fear that curbing drug ads would only be the beginning. They worry regulation will lead to other restrictions, especially unhealthy food products, as well as alcohol.



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