The Dangers of Direct to Consumer Ads
An American citizen would find it difficult to settle in and watch television programming that does not include multiple advertisements for this, that, or the other, prescription drug. Some might say why not, prescription medication is a product like anything else. The answer lies, quite simply, in the overwhelming negative effects of Big Pharmas’ direct to consumer advertising. Given these overwhelming negative effects, the federal government should revisit this policy thereby improving the lives and health of Americans. The negative effects of DTCAs are straining relationships between physicians and patients, misinforming, corrupting, increasing costs, and potentially harming, all of which Big Pharmas chose to risk for the sake of making a profit.
With all of the negative side effects, it seems implausible that people would not be more opposed to DTCAs. However this is due to the fact that Big Pharmas use DTCAs to misinform people. One example that immediately comes to mind would be Pfizer’s Lipitor commercial featuring Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart. This ad was later deemed misleading and subsequently pulled after Congress probed it, because “Jarvik, who appears to be acting as a doctor giving medical advice, is not licensed to practice medicine.”2 This was deemed misleading because most people knew him to be related in some way to the medical field, even if they didn’t know how exactly he contributed to it. And having him in the commercial made consumers feel the drug was safe, as they assumed that a ‘doctor’ would not appear on television to advertise a drug that he did not believe was safe. But Big Pharmas have been known to withhold information that they are not obliged to share (this fact alone is something drug companies probably would not like people to know). And they know just how misleading DTCAs can be, which is why they target consumers, providing them with “an incomplete and biased education” thereby creating the “allusion of an ‘informed patient’”.3 And the 2004 reports of IMS Health (IMS) and CAM Group (CAM), two international market research companies that provide the pharmaceutical industry with sales/marketing data and consulting services, proved this. They estimated that “the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development, contrary to the industry’s claim.”4
Not only do drug companies lie about how much they spend on DTCAs, but they also overemphasize the benefits of their drugs. Meledy Peterson, author of Our Daily Meds, states, “It is a common sales tactic in the industry to have sales reps push doctors to prescribe a drug for many uses and patient conditions… even though it is illegal to promote a drug for anything other than the condition the FDA has approved it for.”5 This is due to the fact that in December 2012, this was made legal: “the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case (PDF) that could dramatically expand the free-speech rights of pharmaceutical companies, allowing them to share unapproved information about the drugs they make.6
Another result of Big Pharma’s expanded free speech rights is its ability to manufacture diseases. It is not doctors, but drug companies that lead the nation in the discovery of new maladies that only seem to afflict our country, with things such as “restless leg syndrome,” “low testosterone disorder,” and “erectile dysfunction.”7 This can be proven by the fact that “Somewhere between 24 and 30 million people have gone to their doctor to talk about a health problem they had never discussed before after seeing a prescription drug ad.”8
This in turn leads to a slew of problems that strains the relationship between physicians and their patients. People in America tend to look for quick fixes to all of their medical problems, something that can be...
Cited: Abrams, Michael. “Big Pharma’s Direct to Consumer Advertising Corrupts America’s Health Culture.” IVN. 3 May 2012. http://ivn.us/2012/05/03/big-pharmas-direct- to-consumer-advertising-corrupts-americas-health-culture/. 28 Sep. 2013.
“Big Pharma Spends More On Advertising Than Research And Development, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily.7 Jan. 2008. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080105140107.htm. 2 Oct, 2013.
Frum, David. “Drug industry’s free speech helps doctors.” CNN Opinion. 10 Dec. 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/10/opinion/frum-off-label-use-of- drugs/. 6 Dec. 2012.
Messemore, W.E. “Big Pharma’s Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Is A Constitutional Right.” IVN. 7 Nov. 2011. http://ivn.us/2012/05/04/big-pharmas-direct-to- consumer-advertising-is-a-constitutional-right/. 28 Sep. 2013.
“Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2 July, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief. 2 Oct, 2013.
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