Sunday, June 28, 2009

Should pharmaceutical companies advertise prescription drugs?

Why do pharmaceutical companies advertise prescription drugs on television? Consumers are legally unable to buy them without being prescribed by a doctor. Should drugs be marketed directly to consumers? When people are ill, they visit doctors to seek treatment. Doctors are trained to assess medical conditions and they are in the best position to recommend treatment. Doctors need to be informed about the potential benefits and side effects of all treatment options? Do patients need to be given a sales pitch to encourage them to seek treatment? Is there a better way to inform the public?

Critics claim the reason why pharmaceutical companies advertise their drugs is because it does indeed increase their sales. They have powerful lobbies that convinced the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 to relax regulations that prohibited advertising for these controlled substances. So now many patients go to doctors asking for specific drugs they have seen in advertisements. They do not seek the doctor's informed opinion of the best course of treatment. And many doctors provide these drugs to patients even when they are not the preferred way to treat a condition. They realize patients may go to a different doctor if their requests are not satisfied.

Do drug companies and lobbyists for other groups have too much influence on the U.S. health care system?

Other criticisms of the pharmaceutical industry were discussed in the July 15, 2004 edition of The New York Review of Books. or "The Truth About Drug Companies."

See also "Beyond Advertising: The Pharmaceutical Industry's Hidden Marketing Tactics."

See also "Drug Advertising Skyrockets."

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