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Jim Clark
Jim Clark
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Direct-to-Consumer Advertising by Drug Companies

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The idea of drug companies advertising the prescription medicines they manufacture on TV and in other consumer directed media has always been offensive to me. I have often wondered if other consumers like me consider the fact that the drug products these companies advertise are for conditions that never go away. In other words, with few exceptions the products do not heal anything, they just offer symptomatic relief. Why advertise a product that actually heals something? The market for such a product would be short-lived. Pain relievers and allergy medicines are prime examples. Pain is a symptom that may be relieved by the product, but the cause of the pain is not. A runny nose or itching eyes may be relieved by the product, but the symptoms will be back in 8-12 hours, or next week, or next Spring or Fall. And of course you will need more product when the symptoms return. I can actually remember when advertising prescription medicines to the public was unheard of. Medicines were promoted to doctors for their patients and not to patients urging that they ask their doctors for the medicine. This whole process is known as direct to consumer advertising and it has become big business and needless to say, BIG MONEY.

A recent national survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health in cooperation with USA Today noted that spending on direct-to-consumer advertising peaked in 2006 at $4.8 billion, up from $2.6 billion in 2002. The survey noted 44% of physicians prescribed drugs requested by their patients. The president of the Kaiser Foundation commented:

“Our survey shows why the drug companies run all these ads: They work. Many people get drugs they otherwise wouldn’t. While there’s a debate about whether that’s a good thing for patients, it does cost the country more.”

My next comments will address the recent Pfizer-Lipitor-Dr. Jarvik whatever….