FDA and Partners Launch e-Learning Course on Evaluating Drug Promotion

By: Thomas Abrams 

You probably have seen many consumer advertisements for prescriptions drugs–on TV, in magazines, or online. While those ads are expensive, did you know that in 2010, pharmaceutical companies actually spent more money advertising to health care professionals than they spent advertising to consumers? Here at FDA, our Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) monitors the information that pharmaceutical companies give to health care professionals (HCPs) about prescription drugs. We want to make sure the information your doctor or prescriber receives is truthful and not misleading, because they may use it when deciding what medicines to prescribe to you, their patient. 

We have just launched with Medscape an e-learning course and case studies as part of Bad Ad, a program designed to raise awareness among HCPs and students in various health programs about drug ads and promotional materials that might be untruthful or misleading, and how to report it to FDA. The course offers Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit for physicians and Continuing Education (CE) credit for other HCPs. Although the target audience for the course is HCPs, anyone can take the course. 

In addition, because students are actively engaged in forming clinical practice habits that may last throughout their careers, reaching them now with Bad Ad information could have a strong impact on how they view prescription drug promotion. To help them become discerning readers of drug promotional information, we in OPDP have developed several case studies based on FDA Warning and Untitled letters issued to drug companies. The case studies, which represent common problems, can be downloaded from the Bad Ad website. 

We encourage medical, pharmacy, nursing and other health care related schools to incorporate these cases into their coursework. The cases cover a range of promotional materials including a website, journal ad, and TV ad, and touch upon numerous promotional practices that don’t comply with our regulations. Through the case studies, students will have an opportunity to evaluate and discuss these real-life examples of misleading drug promotion. 

Our new e-learning courses and cases studies are the latest of many ways FDA works to help ensure that your health care professionals have truthful and accurate information when making decisions that affect your health and safety. 

Thomas Abrams is the director of FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research