[Representational Image]Reuters

The American Medical Association (AMA) on Tuesday, 17 November, called for a ban on consumer ads for prescription drugs and implantable medical devices that are directly aimed at consumers, saying they lead to increasing costs and demand from patients for expensive treatment, when alternative low-cost treatment would be effective and suffice.

At a policy meeting in Atlanta, AMA delegates took up this step as part of the group's attempt to make prescription drugs more affordable.

"Today's (Tuesday's) vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions and the role that marketing costs play in fuelling escalating drug prices," said Patrice Harris, an AMA board member.

Money spent by drugmakers in the US has reportedly increased to $4.5 billion in the past couple of years, a 30% rise, showed an AMA news release. Other data have reflected that costs of prescription drugs have also gone up almost 5% this year.

Currently, the United States and New Zealand are the only two nations in the world to permit direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs, reported The Verge.

"Patient care can be compromised and delayed when prescription drugs are unaffordable and subject to coverage limitations by the patients' health plan," said Harris in the news release, highlighting patients' tendency to hold up treatment when prescriptions become too pricey.

Apart from banning ads, the AMA also wants to initiate an "advocacy campaign" that will require more options and competition in the pharmaceutical industry.

Alongside federal regulators, the AMA will work towards finding ways to check the anti-competitive attitude of drugmakers so prescription drugs become affordable by patients.

Additionally, the group will also keep a watch on company acquisitions and mergers, besides working to improve the patent system.

The pharmaceutical industry has revolted against the AMA's decision.

Tina Stow of the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said direct-to-consumer ads offer "scientifically accurate information to patients so they are better informed about their healthcare and treatment options".

She added that the ads also motivate patients to go see their doctors "for important doctor-patient conversations about health that might otherwise not take place," reported the Associated Press.

The AMA will analyse the new policy in the forthcoming weeks to establish how to go about seeking a ban on consumer ads.

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