A recent program begun by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “deputizing” members of the healthcare industry, while rankling the pharmaceutical and marketing industries. Calling it the “Bad Ad Program,” the FDA is asking doctors and other healthcare professionals to report ads and promotions that run afoul of FDA rules.
The inspiration behind the effort was to help root out inappropriate sales pitches made by pharma reps to physicians, in other words violations the FDA cannot see. But the program scope is actually broader, inviting medical professionals to report “bad” ads to the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) anonymously via e-mail.
According to the DDMAC, the initial phase of what is intended to be a larger program focuses on educating healthcare personnel about what makes a compliant ad and what the DDMAC can do. Later phases will apparently offer more detailed examples of what to look for.
Critics of the effort dismiss it as ill-conceived. They see it as little more than an understaffed FDA’s inability to monitor and respond to the enormous amount of advertising and marketing material generated to support prescription medicine. Others point out that, because anyone can make a report, the complaint might actually be coming from a competitor.
No mention was made in the story regarding whether non-English ads are included. But isn’t a “bad ad” bad no matter what language it’s in? Addressing non-compliant communications must, after all, be considered part of ensuring language access for today’s limited English proficient patients.