Report calls for crackdown on advertising by digital pill factories

Report calls for crackdown on advertising by digital pill factories

Report calls for crackdown on advertising by digital pill factories

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Gaps in the rules governing the advertising of stimulant drugs should be closed, according to a report published Monday by an international think tank.


According to the 39-page report from the Center for Data Innovation, which studies the intersection of data, technology and public policy.

He explained that telehealth companies can publish advertisements for prescription drugs without including warnings or information about side effects due to technical details in pharmaceutical advertising laws and regulations.

Many social media ads for stimulant drugs target an audience concerned about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The Center for Data Innovation report references this November 2021 Tweet from Klarity ADHD:

Image source: Klarity ADHD Twitter feed

“Most medical providers who offer treatment for ADHD act in the best interests of their patients and prescribe stimulants when medically necessary,” said report author Morgan Stevens.

“But some of the newer telehealth companies, such as Cerebral and Done, have abused advertising loopholes to market stimulant drugs,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Cerebral declined to comment for this story. Done did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

Pills before people

Over the past two decades, the use of stimulant drugs has increased, following a pattern similar to the opioid epidemic, the report explains.

The increase in the use of stimulant drugs continued during the Covid-19 pandemic, it continued, when some telehealth companies took advantage of relaxed regulations to offer prescriptions for stimulants with little medical supervision or proper care.

However, despite increased consumption and availability of stimulant drugs, stimulant abuse and overprescription are less monitored than other Schedule II controlled substances, such as opioids, he added.

The report noted that a number of regulatory changes designed to foster the use of telehealth during the pandemic have made it possible to provide more services remotely than ever before, including the prescription of stimulant drugs.

In pursuit of rapid growth, he continued, some telehealth companies have prioritized customer retention and satisfaction over ensuring patients receive appropriate, high-quality care. quality.

The report argues that some companies operating in telehealth are not meeting standards for in-person psychiatric care.

The process of diagnosing ADHD typically involves a lengthy evaluation during which a medical professional will review the patient’s clinical history, discuss reported symptoms, and may seek information from the patient’s friends and family, he said. Explain. Instead, some companies assessed patients in 30-minute appointments before reaching a diagnosis and prescribing stimulant drugs.

“Help Wanted Ads”

Companies advertising ADHD drugs were able to avoid stricter rules by not mentioning specific drugs by name.

Unlike ads that name specific drugs, the report explains that these ads — classified by the FDA as “help-seeking ads” — discuss a condition or disease but do not refer to medical treatment. specific for it.

Instead, these ads list the symptoms caused by ADHD and encourage viewers to see a medical professional for treatment if they experience the symptoms.

Google Ad search result to buy adderall online from ADHD treatment provider Completed

December 5, 2022 – A Google search for “buy adderall online” returns a top result which is an advertisement for Done.

However, the report noted that many of the symptoms listed in the advertisements are common to the human condition and may not indicate that an individual has ADHD.

By relaying information about ADHD symptoms without providing additional context, these ads risk misleading viewers into thinking they have ADHD and should take medication to treat the condition without understanding. the risks.

Viewers can identify with one or more of the common symptoms featured in the ad and seek medical treatment for the condition, he added. This could result in some viewers receiving an inaccurate diagnosis and medically unnecessary treatment.

Law enforcement audits of telehealth platforms

Although some telehealth providers offering mental health services likely played a role in the massive increase in stimulant drug prescriptions during the Covid-19 pandemic, the report urged policymakers to focus on improving the monitoring these providers – and penalizing those who violate the law – rather than seeking revenge on the telehealth industry as a whole.

Among the actions the report recommends for policymakers to identify bad or negligent actors responsible for unnecessary prescribing is regular auditing of telehealth platforms by law enforcement.

However, Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a surgeon and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington, DC think tank, sees some problems with law enforcement taking on a role in regulating the medical profession.

“I don’t know too many law enforcement people who have degrees in medicine or pharmacology, but they seem to decide what’s overprescribed and what’s not,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Whether doctors overprescribe, underprescribe, or inappropriately prescribe is a medical decision, not a decision of the criminal justice system,” he added.

In a white paper published in November, Cato researcher and researcher Trevor Burrus argued that medical mismanagement of pain, which causes harm to patients, is best addressed through the tort system.

“[S]States establish professional licensing boards specifically to enforce the “standard of care” rendered by the professionals they oversee,” they wrote. “Law enforcement has no medical expertise and should have no say in the classification of narcotics and psychoactive substances.”

Doctors Crossing State Lines

Stevens countered that the Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and state law enforcement agencies are already investigating health care practitioners and organizations, in addition to the DEA which performs routine audits for controlled substances.

“The DEA, HHS, and states have the capabilities to expand these operations to ensure greater compliance with controlled substances,” she added.

The report also recommended that practitioners be allowed to treat patients across state lines. He recommended that policymakers increase the number of providers patients can go to for mental health services. With telehealth, patients can receive medical care remotely from providers located in different locations.

He added that state policymakers should adhere to licensing agreements that allow medical providers to practice across state lines.

In testimony before Congress, Singer suggested lawmakers go even further. “Congress should define ‘place of care’ as the state in which the practitioner is located as opposed to the state in which the consumer of the service resides,” he told the Senate Communications Subcommittee, media and broadband.

“This change would increase access to care and allow patients to utilize expertise that may exist in parts of the country otherwise beyond their reach,” he explained. “It would also remove the protection from out-of-state competitors that healthcare providers otherwise enjoy. Increased competition would benefit patients.

Keep a close eye on telehealth providers

The report noted that regulatory changes from the Covid-19 pandemic have led to the development of a telehealth startup economy. These new businesses allowed patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their homes and provided medical benefits that would otherwise not have been available. Yet some telehealth providers have exploited these changes to the detriment of patients.

Given the benefits and ease of access of telehealth, he continues, policymakers should pursue the regulatory changes that have allowed companies to thrive. However, they must ensure that remote patients receive the same level of care as when meeting in person.


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