In an effort to revive his doomed presidential campaign, John Edwards has produced a proposal whereby DTC drug ads would be somewhat restricted by our masters in Washington.
Kevin, MD likes this idea, and the folks at Pharmalot are apparently OK with it as well, but I have to say that I’m pretty queasy about this sort of thing. For starters, the courts have consistently ruled that advertising is protected by the First Amendment. As the Supreme Court put it in 1993:
The commercial market place, like other spheres of our social and cultural life, provides a forum where ideas and information flourish. Some of the ideas and information are vital, some of slight worth. But the general rule is that the speaker and the audience, not the government, assess the value of the information presented. Thus, even a communication that does no more than propose a commercial transaction is entitled to the coverage of the First Amendment.
And, even if the First Amendment weren’t an issue, Edwards’ rationale for this proposal is pretty weak:
You’ve seen these ads. You know who’s paying for them, right? You are …Basically, they do what they want, and they’re driving up demand for the most expensive and most profitable drugs.
Well … yes, Senator. That’s the point of advertising. If you’re going to restrict advertising for these reasons, why not curtail ads for automobiles and refrigerators as well?
I’m glad this character has very little chance of becoming President.