Stent Commercial on Television Raises Concerns

Direct-to-consumer ad for device may gloss over risks for high-tech product

THURSDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- A 60-second commercial that aired during a nationally televised football game last Thanksgiving broke new ground in direct-to-consumer medical advertising, which deserves examination and perhaps reconsideration, according to a commentary published online May 14 in advance of publication in the May 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

William E. Boden, M.D., of the University at Buffalo Schools of Medicine and Public Health in Buffalo, N.Y., and George A. Diamond, M.D., of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, discuss the commercial, which was the first direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) campaign for percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty with a drug-eluting stent.

The authors cite research suggesting that DTCA can improve dialogue between doctors and patients. However, they also raise concerns that television ads may not provide enough coverage of treatment risks, which is required in greater detail in print ads. Also, unlike getting a medication -- which requires a relatively casual process involving an office visit and trip to the pharmacy -- obtaining the Cypher stent is a sophisticated process involving a more nuanced understanding of the product than a DTCA campaign can provide to a layperson.

"The notion that television viewers, inspired by such an ad, would go to their physicians and request not only a stent but a specific brand and model of stent is frightening, if not utterly absurd," the authors write. "We believe that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should perform a critical postrelease review of the…campaign to assess whether it meets the basic regulatory requirements for non-deceptive prescription-drug advertising."

Boden disclosed financial relationships with several pharmaceutical companies.

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