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Are Diabetes Drug Ads Misleading?   Apr . 13 . 2015

Pharmaceutical advertising reaches patients and physicians alike through television commercials, magazine spots, and online. Ads typically focus on a medication’s efficacy for a specific condition, for which it was approved by the FDA. However, recently some drug makers have been touting their diabetes medications as having the ability to help people lose weight, or help to control blood pressure. Should the FDA to step in and stop the non-approved promotion of these diabetes medications?

According to the Wall Street Journal Pharmalot, “a consumer watchdog has asked the FDA to stop several drug makers from promoting their diabetes medicines for losing weight, because the drugs were not approved for this purpose.” The article goes on to highlight the concern of the advocacy group, who argues that the advertisements inflate the perceived benefits of these medications, and that they “dangerously skew the risk-benefit calculations made by physicians and patients alike in deciding whether to initiate or continue these therapies.” In essence, the concern is that the side-benefit claims of these medications may entice patients and physicians to potentially begin or maintain treatment, when it otherwise would not be considered.

While the advocacy group has the public interest at heart, hoping to achieve some legal action against the misleading ads, the pharmaceutical industry would like the FDA to, “allow drug makers to distribute new information about the effectiveness of their medicines.” Drug makers stand by the “secondary effects” of their medications, especially when they can be a benefit to the population. It is important to note here that the diabetes medications under fire come with disclaimers that they, ‘are not weight-loss drugs.”

At this point, it is unclear whether the FDA should penalize the drug companies promoting the non-approved benefits of their medications, or whether the pharmaceutical industry should be allowed more latitude when it comes to promoting their medications. In the meantime, physicians and patients are encouraged to exercise scrutiny when hearing advertising claims about certain medications.

Information for this blog post was sourced from the Wall Street Journal Pharmalot article, “Should FDA Penalize Drug Makers Over Diabetes Drug Ads?” written by Ed Silverman on April 1, 2015.  For more information, please visit


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