Drug-Addled Agency Failing on Oversight

Prescription pillsThe U.S. Government Accountability Office "released a scathing report on the way the Food and Drug Administration handles direct-to-consumer prescription-drug advertising." The FDA "has just six reviewers on staff" to "screen, review and track the 10,000 pieces of advertising generated by drug makers each year in what has become a $4.5 billion-a-year industry." The FDA's response time for problematic drug ads has ballooned, from an average of two weeks in the years 1997 through 2001, to four months in 2002 to 2005, to eight months in 2004 and 2005. Senator Herb Kohl, one of three legislators who requested the GAO report, commented, "We need an FDA capable of reviewing DTC ads and taking swift action when necessary." For a rebuttal, Advertising Age quoted the head of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, who said, "Better government oversight doesn't necessarily mean spending more money and adding more staff." However, AdAge neglected to point out that the "coalition" was formed by advertisers and publishing companies who rely on advertising dollars.