September 26, 2008

U.S. Senate to Keep Close Tabs on Medical Device Ads

A group of U.S. Senators may be calling for new restrictions on consumer-directed advertisements on new medical devices including products like artificial joints and heart stents due to concerns that the ads mislead consumers. Data presented at a recent hearing on medical device ads showed that medical device manufacturers spent almost $200 million on print, internet, and TV advertisements in 2007. While that number is far less than the amount spent on ads for prescription drugs, the amounts spent on medical device ads doubled between 2005 and 2007. Representatives of the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) testified at the hearing that medical device ads are not required to include warnings about the potential risk of infections and other complications, despite the fact that the number of adverse events is increasing each year. A member of the Board of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons testified about a recent study that showed 85% of surgeons believed that patients who saw such ads had unrealistic expectations of the benefits of the devices and 74% of surgeons believed the ads negatively impacted their relationships with patients due to the unrealistic expectations of the products.

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