NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Food and Drug Makers Want Freer Speech

September 17, 2002

Industries regulated by the Food and Drug Administration want the agency to loosen restrictions on promoting their products. The FDA has offered to review its rules and its solicitation of public input.

  • Because the FDA regulates products accounting for 22 percent of U.S. consumer spending, its restrictions on "commercial speech" issues can have an immense impact on both consumer and producer behavior.
  • Drug makers say they should be able to freely hand out research on "off label" uses of drugs -- that is, uses for which they were not approved but which doctors prescribe them for.
  • Drug manufacturers also believe the agency shouldn't add more restrictions to television ads.
  • The Grocery Manufacturers of America wants permission to use the same kind of health-related labeling claims on food products as that used on dietary supplements.

The FDA recently lost a number of court decisions on commercial speech issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union has urged a "less restrictive" approach on the part of the agency. But influential Democrats are allied with such advocacy groups as Public Citizen in opposition to any relaxation of the rules.

Last year, the pharmaceuticals industry spent $5.5 billion on office and hospital promotions -- and $2.7 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising.

Source: Chris Adams, "Looser Lips for Food and Drug Makers?" Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2002.

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