Senators propose an end to pharma ad tax deduction

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Four Democratic senators introduced a bill last week that would end the tax deduction for direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.

Drugmakers can currently write off money they spend on advertising and marketing as a tax deduction.

The bill, “Protecting Americans from Drug Marketing Act,” would forbid that deduction. It was introduced by Senators Al Franken (pictured) (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Tom Udall (D-NM). The proposed legislation defines DTC as any advertisement that is “primarily targeted to the general public,” and specified the following mediums: print, radio, television, telephone communication systems, and social media.

See also: Bill to ban DTC adds to industry's woes

John Kamp, executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, which advocates on behalf of healthcare advertising and communications companies, said that laws “that ban truthful messages are a violation of the First Amendment and an insult to patients seeking information to enrich their discussions with their doctors and empower their medical decisions.”

This is not Sen. Franken's first attempt to discourage the use of DTC. In October 2009 he proposed legislation of the same name that would also end tax breaks for DTC advertising and marketing to healthcare providers. That bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, but no further actions were taken.

This latest proposed legislation adds to growing ire directed toward pharma advertising and pricing practices. In February, Rep. Laura DeRosa proposed a bill that would limit the launch of a DTC campaign until three years after a drug is approved by the FDA. During the same month, House lawmakers convened a hearing to blast pharma executives over rising drug prices, and how they arrived at those prices. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also said she would end tax breaks for DTC advertising.

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