Drug Ads Being Pulled


I saw this story that claims pressure form law makers and doctors is forcing drug companies to stop advertising their drugs directly to consumers. I too have noticed that all kinds of magazines are now filled with advertisements directed to consumers to make them ask their doctor for the medication. I have seen some articles where doctors complain that patients make appointments just to ask for a prescription and get upset if the doctor does not think it necessary.

A couple of the comments are very interesting also. I wonder how much of the huge increase in profits for the pharmaceutical industry has come as a result of their 5 billion dollar a year advertising budget. Don’t we already get a sufficiently high dose of various medications from our drinking water? OK, bad joke, but still, don’t you think it should be up to doctors to discuss drug options with their patients without being forced to counter drug company advertising profits? Or is this another issue where we as consumers have a right to know as much information as possible in order to make more informed choices?

As always I am for full disclosure, but this issue has me conflicted. I am not sure that ads by drug companies trying to sell their products qualify as truthful disclosure. What do you think?

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Will Sig
1 Organic Eating Daily

I think that way too much has changed since the onslaught of drug company advertisements — there is always the oft-overlooked subtlety of people now convinced that so much as a twitching leg requires a pill to cure an underlying disease. Ultimately, the effect is to take personal accountability, independence and responsibility away from all individuals, replacing those fine qualities with dependence, insecurity and a deep-seated reliance on industries of control like pharmaceuticals. The longer this goes on, with doctors succumbing to the dollars, the worse off we are left — so yes, information is all we have to fight back, beyond cynicism.

Organic Eating Dailys last blog post..Westsoy Unsweetened Vanilla Soymilk


2 sky

hahahahaha Will, funny bad joke ;0) had me chuckling though. Personally I have come to completely mistrust the majority of the powers that be, in various industry, especially the drug industry at large. I really hate saying that, but it’s how I FEEL. I feel somedays like I am some marionette and my strings yanked a bit too much. I really feel bombarded though with the advertising all kinds of things, everywhere I go, listen, turn on. I feel conflicted too, on one hand I prefer full disclosure so I can do my own research and homework, at the same time I certainly understand the doctors


skys last blog post..The Art Of Living


3 Jennifer Robin

Those drug commercials (both on TV and radio) have always gotten my hackles up. The promises of medical magic, the fast and low talking when describing the side effects, it all just contributes to the feeling (for me anyways) that they are pushing something dangerous and elicit under the guise of being something desirable and miraculous. I haven’t watched TV in a couple of years now, so I didn’t realize there had been any changes in advertising in that medium, but I have noticed the proliferation of magazine ads. I guess the advertising snakes will take it wherever they can to push their poisons and promises on the gullibility of the general public.

Jennifer Robins last blog post..Copyright Protection and Why


4 JD Thomas

I’ve long been disturbed by those TV and magazine adds for prescription drugs. Is this a specifically American phenomenon? Have other countries opened this can of worms by allowing pharmaceutical companies direct access to consumers?

This article from last month seems to show that Europe is slowly moving in that direction – A Therapy Against National Barriers—Liberalization of European Pharmaceutical Advertising = but I don’t know about the rest of the world.

The whole idea of going to ones doctor with a request for a specific drug strikes me as odd. If my car is acting up I rely on a trained professional to diagnose and repair the problem. Why would I do less for my body?

I do a great deal of troubleshooting as part of my professional work so I try to apply the same tools to other matters. I do my best to make sure my doctor has all the information he needs to diagnose a problem but I’d never consider trying to tell him how to treat the problem.


5 Inspirit

I don’t really think that ads by drug companies trying to sell their products qualify as truthful disclosure.


6 Shaheen Lakhan

Hi Will,

Thanks for the post on DTC by big pharma. On a similar note, we recently published an article at Brain Blogger on the ENHANCE Trial. Mr. Dan Abshear, who recently joined our writing team, divorced himself from “big pharma” after working for three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world for over a decade. I wanted to read your commentary on his latest article concerning Merck and Schering-Plough’s, Zetia and Vytorin. Thank you.


Shaheen Lakhans last blog post..Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD): No Heart for the Meds?


7 Bob

Lol, great joke, I have a major issue with the drug company ads, mostly because the lack of unbiased and full disclosure.

Bobs last blog post..Phoenix Mars Lander


8 Will

Yes, Sky, conflicted is a good way to put it. Information and disclosure is great, but I am not sure ads by the drug companies qualifies as disclosure. And , as you say it is easy to understand the concern of the doctors.

JD puts is well when he say pharmaceutical companies are being allowed direct access to consumers. It is concerning because selling drugs directly to the consumer is very different than selling electronics, cars, or even food. Maybe drug companies do need to be held to a hi8gher standard.


9 Swubird


This is a particularly interesting issue for me because my wife takes a lot of prescription drugs. She has suffered from a non-curable illness for many years, and the only thing the doctors can do is treat the symptoms to make her feel a little more comfortable. The problem is that the doctors are too busy to keep up with the latest drugs. For instance, we tracked one drug while it was used in Europe and then throughout the FDA process over here until it was finally available. We had been discussing this new drug with our doctor for some years, and we kept him updated. When It finally came out, though, we didn’t know that it was actually available until three months later. That’s a long time when you’re in pain. We heard about it’s release through drug company advertisements, so we went to our doctor and demanded to have it. He took five minutes, read about it, and then gave us a prescription. So in our case, drug advertising was helpful, and continues to help us to learn about new drugs. Other doctors we’ve spoken with about new drugs we’ve heard about on television, however, completely reject the idea that we should be so bold as to tell them about the new drug. In other words, if they don’t find out about it through their normal process, they don’t want you telling them about it. So the bottom line is that I think a bigger problem than drug advertising is the doctor’s attitudes. They should get off their high horses and start thinking about what’s good for the patient – no matter where the information comes from!

Swubirds last blog post..MY LAST FIGHT


10 Will

Wow – I am glad you had a good experience and that your wife eventually got help with the new medication. Good points all and certainly food for thought. Thanks!


11 Betty

I am agree that we as consumers have a right to know as much information as possible in order to make more informed choices, especially after reading comment from Swubird. I think the medical technology has been developed very fast, so it is possible that several doctors are not really up dated. Drugs advertising help both doctors and patients with important information.


12 EK Abonnement

Slightly related (although not a lot…) is Google’s stance in hard liquor ads; these types of ads aren’t allowed. And neither should drug ads to consumers.


13 Organic Eating Daily

I had no idea about Google not allowing hard liquor ads. Any idea on what the basis of this position is? I.E. moral versus political, or about some regulatory measures with regard to online advertising? Hmmm…

Organic Eating Dailys last blog post..What Is Cacao?


14 Dan

A Television as a Doctor?

Often, usually on television, one viewing will see an advertisement for some type of medication – usually one involved in a large market disease state and the commercial is sponsored usually by a big pharmaceutical company for a particular network. This is called direct to consumer advertising, and doctors would prefer it did not exist.

Since 1997, when the FDA relaxed regulations regarding this form of advertising, the popularity of the creation of such commercials has greatly increased. The pharmaceutical industry spends around 5 billion annually on this media source now. Normally, the creation of such a commercial becomes visible to the consumer within a year of the drug’s approval, which raises safety concerns. And it involves money spent that could be applied to greater uses, according to many, but we are dealing with a corporation here.

The purpose of DTC ads is not education, in my opinion, as others have claimed. Any advertising of any type shares the same objective, which is to increase sales and grow their market, in this case, for a particular perceived medical condition or disease state. The intent of DTC advertising is to generate an emotional response from the viewer, such as fear or concern, believing upon research that the viewer will then question as to whether they need to seek treatment for what may be an unconfirmed medical condition.

DTC advertising is also a catalyst for and similar to disease mongering. Disease mongering is the creation of what some believe to be medical flaws, and illustrated by the creators through exaggeration and embellishments through media sources as an avenue for such propaganda, as is often seen with DTC advertising. Yet the flaws may not be medical, but corporate creations of these questionable human ailments that do not require treatment, possibly, and may be an attempt to develop a particular medical condition to acquire profit. One of my favorite DTCs is the new indication for the use of an anti-depressant for a social disorder. This used to be called introversion, a term created by Dr. Carl Yung. And it is a personality trait, not a medical disease. There are other questionable medical conditions claimed in the contents of DTC commercials, as the creators wish to grow the market for a particular, and possibly fictional, disease state. Then there is baldness treatments advertised, as another example. Lifestyle meds are not treatment meds for illnesses, and should not be portrayed as such.

Also, DTC ads discuss only one treatment option normally, when likely several treatment options exist for authentic medical disorders. This should be left to the discretion of the doctor, as they assess your health, not your television or another media source. That’s why most of the world does not conduct DTC advertising, with the exception of our country and New Zealand.

Finally, DTC advertising and its ability to influence viewers to make their own assessment instead of a medical professional remains largely unregulated, yet apparently effective for the DTC creators. People are prone to believe what they see and hear, regardless of whether or not it is actually true. Many, after viewing a DTC ad, seek out a doctor visit and request whatever product that was advertised, which makes things cumbersome for the doctor chosen for such a visit. So the doctor and patient relationship is altered in a negative way, because most DTC ads require a prescription. Medical information and claims of suggested health ailments should come from those in the medical field instead of the corporate world. Perhaps this will save some over-prescribing, which will benefit everyone in the long term. And the Health Care System, which is far from financial prosperity, can regain control of their purpose.

“Men of ill judgment oft ignore the good that lies within their hands till they have lost it”


Dan Abshear


15 Will

Thanks for that comment, Dan! You make lots of great points. DTC ads for drugs can indeed interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and put doctors in the position of having to spend a lot of time convincing patients they do not have certain diseases and do not need the advertised drugs.

But how do you reconcile this problem with the advantages to someone like the above commentator, Swubird? His wife was obviously helped by a drug company ad. It is a tough issue and may come down to which way provides the greater good, or does less harm.


16 Keith

I agree with Dan about the purpose of the ads. Heartburn was morphed into Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease to create a market for Prilosec. Nexium (esomeprazole) was created from Prilosec (omeprazole). The two drugs are extremely close in all aspects, yet Nexium wasn’t released until the patent expiration of Prilosec could no longer be delayed by frivolous (my uninformed non-legal opinion) legal suits. You have seen the ads for Nexium, the new purple pill. The ads SELL the benefits of the pill for a disease that may or may not really be a disease.

One way to alleviate heartburn (GERD) is to drink water before you eat (works for me), don’t stuff yourself and eat foods that agree with you and are digestible by your unique digestive system. One of the advantages of this is that your stomasch still produces the acid to digest your food and fully assimilate the nutrients.

The DTC ads do not inform you that you need acid in your stomach to survive. Nor do they inform you that the actual problem with heartburn or GERD is that the acid is coming back up into the esophagus, not that the stomach is producing acid.

This is only one example of the wrongness of DTC ads. Soundbites are not consumer education.

Any new drug with any budget at all is advertised and editorialized in many professional publications. Swubird’s wife’s doctor should have already been informed by the professional media in the 3 months after that drug’s release.

Swubird and his wife had already educated themselves both about her condition and the new drug BEFORE any DTC ads were aired.

As for consumer education, the internet is a wonderful tool for learning about medications, both from the drug company’s viewpoint and for consumer safety advocates.

Sorry for the longwindedness, but whenever I see the Nexium commercial where all those folks say “I didn’t know”, my response to the TV is “You still don’t know.”


17 Medical Oddities

All the ads about medicines for different stuff like that is important so we know what kind of stuff is out there and people seem to get sick all the time. They shouldn’t overdo it though like they do. It gets annoying seeing ads for medicines every day.

Medical Odditiess last blog post..Liberty Medical Supplies


18 Lily

I’ve seen ads on TV for Caduet. It has two ingredients. One is Amlodipine and the other is Atorvastatin. I can get 30 tablets of Amlodipine for $9 and 30 tablets of Simvastatin for $9. I’ll bet they are charging more than $18 for this new drug! The unthinking public is going to pressure their doctors into giving them something just because it’s new when something old or generic would do the job for cheaper.


19 Keith

The current (2011) retail for Caduet 5-10 is way north of $100. Now you know why they keep creating DTC ads.


20 Ruth

There was a report on the news a while back that broke down the average expenditures of the pharmaceutical companies (or it might have been one specific one, I don’t remember). It turns out they spend more on advertising than they do Research and Development! The budget percentages were something like 12% R & D and 16% advertising. That’s really sad, I think.
.-= Ruth´s last blog ..Help End Hunger with The Dinner Garden =-.


21 Will

Hi Ruth – Your comment made me think about this 2 year old post. I don’t think in the end there was any change. Seems like there are as many ads as ever. Hard to believe that more is spent on advertising. Especially since so much fuss is made byt the drug companies about how expensive it is to bring a drug to market.


22 Hillary

The problem is that some doctors don’t keep up with the times as much as others, So there could be options your doctor is unaware of. The other problem is that people would love to diagnose themselves but they are not always right. I think Docs should get over it it will happen weather there are ads or not, what about if there friends tells them about something they are on. It can go either way. The trick is to be informed and don’t trust commercials trust your doctor he has the degree.


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