Before the FDA gained control of how networks can air medication commercials, several doctors did some research and wrote if their findings in, "Television Advertising and Drug Use", by Barry Peterson, Ph.D., et al. They take the stance that advertisements of over the counter drugs contributes to public misconceptions and encourage drug use. "In promoting OTC drugs for the relief of everyday symptoms such as pain, nervousness, or lethargy, drug companies may deceive the public into thinking that drugs are an easy way out of everyday discomfort".
That was 42 years ago, but the same concern is echoed by doctors in 2001. In the article, "Ban TV ads For Prescription Drugs?" it tells us that the American Medical Association would advocate for banning prescription drugs ads from television, newspapers, and magazines. They feel that the misinformation is causing problems with the patient population. They also say that these ads undermine their credibility. Doctors find themselves in a quandary when patients demand a medication they saw advertised, but the doctor feels another medication would better fit the patient's problem.
Dr. Angelo Agro, an ear, nose, and throat doctor says this about medication ads, "Ads by their nature are biased and compressed and are driven more by drug companies' financial concern than by concern for the patients' best interest". Although there were doctors meeting to lobby against the drug companies advertising, there were also doctors who felt that a ban would violate free speech.
The latter group of doctors that felt the ban was unnecessary and made it known to the committee that they saw medication advertisements as a positive because they may encourage patients to see their doctor, even those who wouldn't normally seek medical treatment. They also felt that these ads help to take the stigma out of certain conditions such as depression.
Present day research is related in the article written in 2018, "Coverage By The Media Of The Benefits And Risks Of Medications", by Roy Moynihan B.A. et. al. They discuss how news stories need to cover adverse effects as well as benefits, and often research is focused on the results to favor the company. They found that out of the 207 newspapers and television stories they looked at exhibited shortcomings in their reporting.
Moynihan reported that only 15 percent of the media outlets presented relative and absolute benefits; 83 percent gave information in relative terms only which can be misleading. Declaring only absolute or relative benefits does not tell the full story. 53 percent did not talk about potential harms, and 70 percent did not mention cost. Cost can be a deciding factor for many patients in whether they will choose a particular medication. Disclosure was an issue also. Scientific literature underreports the ties between research results and industry. They conclude that the news media should "focus" more. They suggest an educational program for journalists that would help them to focus on the reporting and interpretation of clinical findings.
The FDA states on their website under the title "Background on Drug Advertising", the following:
The FDA oversees the approval and marketing of prescription drugs through the law, "Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act". We have a lot of regulation in regards to getting medications on the market compared to other countries. The mid-80s saw more involvement of the media in direct to consumer advertising instead of only to doctors and pharmacists.
You have probably noticed that there are some commercials that are really vague, and others that go into great detail. There are several classifications of drug ads:
Product Claim Advertisements - These are the only ads that state the benefits and risks of a drug
Reminder Advertisements - These ads give the name of the drug, but not the drug's uses.
Help-Seeking Advertisements - These describe a disease or condition but do not suggest a specific drug. Ex. are ads for allergies, asthma, or erectile dysfunction.
I have noticed an increase in advertisements for medications, especially on television and in magazines. Ever since the FDA approved advertising for medications years ago, the number per commercial break has skyrocketed. According to the article, "Think You're Seeing More Drug Ads on TV? You Are, and Here's Why" by Joanne Kaufman, 771,368 medication ads were shown in 2016. She states that it is "an increase of almost 65 percent over 2012". Not only has the number increased for medical advertising, but the class of drugs as well.
Years ago, we saw ads for allergy medication or reflux, but now we see chemo drugs, cardiology drugs, and insulin. The marketing is towards those who are older (and still watching TV), rather than the younger generations.
The professional opinions are varied in regards to advertising of drugs, some have reasons they are for them, and those opposed have their thoughts. Research shows that the average consumer can be misled by these advertisements. This misinformation can cause issues between the caregiver and the patient. The doctor may have several reasons why a particular medication may not be right for their patient but the patient feels that it is the best choice for them. Cost is another factor, especially with new medications. Insurance may not pay for a new drug, and the patient is left with a large bill or having to go back and ask the doctor for another alternative. Some patients are more pill driven than life-changing driven in regards to treatment and end up on a long list of medications.
Should drug companies be allowed to advertise at all? Should the government be involved? It's difficult to turn back federal regulation, and advertising is money driven. What would you like to see happen regarding the advertising of medications?
"Background on Drug Advertising". www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/PrescriptionDrugAdvertising. 20 July, 2018. Web.
"Ban TV Ads For Prescription Drugs?". CBS News. 18 June, 2001. 20 July, 2018. Web.
"Basics of Drug Ads". www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/PrescriptionDrugAdvertising. 20 July, 2018. Web.
Bell, Robert A. Phd, Kravitz, Richard L. MD MSPH, Wilkes, Michael S. MD PHD. "Direct to Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising and the Public". 14(11)651-657. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 14 Nov, 1999. 20 July, 2018. Web.
Kaufman, Joanne. "Think You Seeing More Drug Ads on TV? You Are, and Here's Why." The New York Times. 24 Dec. 2017. 20 July, 2018. Web.
Moynihan, Ray B.A. et al. "Coverage By The News Media Of The Benefits And Risks Of Medication". The New England Journal Of Medicine. Vol. 342 Nu. 22, 11 July, 2018. 20 July, 2018. Web.