Last year, we gave one of our Bitter Pill Awards to PhRMA, The “Fox Guarding the Henhouse” Award For Pushing Toothless Voluntary Guidelines on Drug Advertising. This honor was bestowed on PhRMA in the wake of its promulgating vague and unenforceable “Guiding Principles” on drug advertising. As we said at the time, “the Guiding Principles do little to address the fundamental problems caused by DTCA. More importantly, they force the public to rely on the voluntary compliance of drug companies, an industry of which the public is justifiably suspicious.”
Well, you can remain suspicious, because PhRMA just released its second report on the complaints (or “comments,” as PhRMA describes them) received by its Office of Accountability concerning its members’ compliance with the guidelines. Other bloggers have ably reported on this, including Jim Edwards at BrandweekNRX, Ed Silverman at Pharmalot, and John Mack at Pharma Marketing Blog. And not surprisingly, the report is 11 pages of generalities and self-congratulation with nary a detail to be found — no description of the content of any actual complaint, what if anything the alleged violating company did in response, or what PhRMA will do in the future to address such violations.
Basically, the report is PhRMA telling us not to worry, they’re doing just fine, but no, you don’t need to know any details. This is what industry self-regulation always amounts to. But as drug scandal after drug scandal has shown, we cannot rely on the industry’s (ahem) honesty or its willingness to police itself.
With Congress having failed to pass even the most modest regulation of drug advertising in its recent votes on the reauthorization of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, it looks like we’re in for another year (at least) of the Fox telling the Hens not to worry.