The American Medical Association is mulling over whether to add its support to government plans to restrict direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceutical products in the USA, according to a report in The Chicago Tribune.

At its annual meeting, which takes place June 10-14, the Association will ask its members to consider whether to back the government in such a move. The issue was debated at the AMA’s annual policymaking House of Delegates meeting last year, but a decision was placed on hold pending the completion of further study into the matter.

The report is now complete, and it advises that the AMA support a time lag between a product’s regulatory clearance and its subsequent advertising to potential consumers, The Tribune says.

The issue of DTC advertising certainly seems to be gaining more and more attention of late. Earlier this year, a new website was launched to encourage consumers to tell the US Food and Drug Administration that DTC advertising of prescription drugs should no longer be allowed.

The web site was set up by advocacy group Commercial Alert, which says it is not the proper role of drug executives to tell US consumers what medicines they should buy. "In effect, drug companies are practising medicine without a license, and that should be illegal," said Commercial Alert's executive director, Gary Ruskin, adding: "we've got to halt prescription drug advertising before the next Vioxx tragedy happens."

Drugmakers spent over $4 billion in 2004 in "an onslaught of advertising" but, rather than promoting public health, DTC increases drug costs and the number of unnecessary prescriptions, "which is expensive to taxpayers and can be harmful or deadly to patients," the statement claimed.