The First Amendment And Pharmaceutical Promotion

In Health Affairs, Jerry Avorn from Harvard Medical School writes, “traditionally, communication about medications has been granted a privileged status different from that accorded to other forms of communication. This makes sense for several reasons… (One) reason that the nation has determined that drug promotion should be more restricted than promotional statements about, for example, toasters or computers, is that the consequence of getting a medication-use decision wrong can be catastrophic. This helps explain why so many of us are worried about the growing movement to consider the promotional claims of drug makers to be in a class of commercial free speech protected under the First Amendment. While overtly fraudulent statements would not be permitted (“This pill will make you live forever”), a study used in promotional materials could be inaccurate or misleading in many ways without being overtly fraudulent.”