As makers of medical devices like artificial knees and heart stents increasingly pitch their products directly to consumers, some lawmakers, medical groups and others are calling for restrictions on such advertisements, claiming they mislead patients.
The amount of medical device advertising directed to consumers on television or over the Internet — an estimated $193 million last year — represents just a small fraction of the volume of consumer advertising for prescription drugs, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a consulting firm.
But some experts maintain that the advertising of a medical device can have more of an impact on a patient’s well-being than a drug, because devices often require surgery to implant and may remain inside the body for years.
“The results are irreversible because you are kind of stuck with a device,” said Dr. Kevin J. Bozic, a professor of orthopedics at the University of California, San Francisco.
On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging plans to hold a hearing about direct-to-consumer promotions of medical devices. Dr. Bozic, who was an author of a recent medical journal article critical of consumer advertising, is among those scheduled to testify.