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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Those Drug Ads On TV – Are They The Right Prescription For Our Health?

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Remember the days when ads for erectile dysfunction drugs were not on TV. Direct To Consumer (DTC) drug ads are now a $4.1 Billion industry. They are not likely to go away. But, are they a good thing? Are there any standards?

Ten Years Later: Direct to Consumer Drug Advertising

David Kessler didn’t mince words. “Your companies likely will face lawsuits eventually about the claims they make for their products in television commercials,” the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner told a group of pharmaceutical executives. “One day in a courtroom, I assure you, one of you is going to have your DTC ads played.”

It wasn’t just hard-hitting; it was prescient: Mr. Kessler’s speech came in 1998, a year after the FDA’s momentous decision to relax the guidelines regarding direct-to-consumer TV ads from drug companies.

Since that time, DTC drug advertising has emerged from a dawdling $12 million business to a $4.1 billion ad category spanning some 70 advertised drugs. As predicted, it’s also become a lightning rod for political and public criticism, subject to charges that it encourages consumers to pressure doctors for drugs they don’t need; that it glamorizes drugs that have later been found to have dangerous side effects; and, in the case of erectile-dysfunction drugs, that it uses promotes medicinal drugs for recreational uses.

DTC advertising remains under fire, though the industry has been proactive in addressing hot-button issues. Some groups, such as Commercial Alert in Portland, Ore., still call for the abolition of all DTC ads. But the industry received a huge boost earlier this summer when the American Medical Association rebuffed an effort by two of its chapter members that asked for a resolution banning DTC ads. Instead, the AMA asked for a temporary moratorium on DTC marketing of newly approved drugs.

By the way, DTC ads are shown in courtrooms as David Kessler predicted. And, many believe DTC ads are one of the major reasons for the increased drug product litigation in the U.S. Defective drugs, shamelessly advertised and over-prescribed – a prescription for needless injuries and deaths.