Arizona First State to Pass Law Allowing Pharma to Promote Drugs Off-label to Docs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In what some observers are calling a misguided effort, Arizona has become the first state in the nation to pass a law allowing drug makers to promote their medicines for so-called off-label uses — so long as the information given doctors is truthful.


Interestingly, the law was hatched by the Goldwater Institute, the same think tank that spearheaded the controversial Right to Try laws designed to give patients early access to experimental medicines. And the think tank is vowing to duplicate that campaign by introducing off-label bills around the country.


This move comes amid rising pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to loosen regulations for off-label promotions, which is one of the most contentious issues to roil both the agency and the pharmaceutical industry. At issue is a fierce debate over patient safety and free speech.


Meanwhile, though, one former FDA official, who has publicly urged the FDA to loosen its regulations, believes such state laws would be useless, because they would be preempted by federal law that allows the FDA to issue guidance documents and rules about various activities and requirements.


“It’s nice that the Arizona legislature thinks disseminating off-label information is a good thing, but it’s not their jurisdiction to say so,” said Peter Pitts, a former FDA associate commissioner who heads the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a think tank that is funded, in part, by the pharmaceutical industry. “I don’t think a challenge in court would last more than five minutes.”


Nonetheless, one consumer advocate, who opposes widening the ability of drug makers to promote off-label uses, fully expects the Goldwater Institute to persist.


“I don’t think the law will change the landscape, but they’re seeking to gin up public attention and become a stepping-stone to try to get Congress to pass laws that would accomplish the same thing on a national level,” said Michael Carome, who heads Public Citizen. “I suspect that’s the ultimate goal.”


Further Reading:

  • “Does FDA Guidance About Pharma Communications with Payors Open a Path to Off-Label Discussions?”; 
  • “WLF Urges FDA to Abide by First Amendment, Lift Restrictions on Off-Label Communications”; 


Is "Right to Try" a good idea? Take my survey here: