On May 11, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new initiative – the “Bad Ad Program” – designed to educate health care practitioners about their role in ensuring that prescription drug advertising and promotion is truthful, and not misleading. With the launch of this program, FDA, through the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC), a division within FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, is now actively seeking to “collaborate with health care professionals” to increase the effectiveness of the agency’s marketing and advertising surveillance program. DDMAC is responsible for assuring prescription drug information is truthful, balanced, and accurately communicated, and guarding against false and misleading advertising and promotion through comprehensive surveillance, enforcement, and educational programs.

FDA introduced the Bad Ad Program through a dedicated website, an educational brochure for practitioners (Truthful Prescription Drug Advertising and Promotion: The Prescriber’s Role), and a letter from FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, introducing practitioners to the program.

“I am asking you to help FDA in our efforts to stop misleading prescription drug promotion,” states the Commissioner in her letter. “The Bad Ad Program can only succeed with your collaboration. Your help in this effort will be most beneficial to FDA in helping to ensure that prescription drug promotional information is accurately communicated to the medical community.”

The Bad Ad Program website encourages health care practitioners to “play an important role” for FDA by “recognizing and reporting” misleading advertising and promotion. FDA wants practitioners to be “aware of the many advertisements and promotions that [they] see every day,” and help FDA stop violations by “reporting activities and messages” that may be false or misleading.

The Bad Ad Program will be rolled out in three phases. In Phase 1, DDMAC will engage health care practitioners at specifically-selected medical conventions in 2010 and partner with specific medical societies to distribute educational materials. At these conferences, DDMAC reviewers will be speaking with practitioners regarding how to recognize misleading prescription drug promotion and how to report any potential violations to FDA. Phases 2 and 3 will expand the FDA’s collaborative efforts and update the educational materials developed for Phase 1.