Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Drug Advertisements on TV

What’s up with those drug commercials on TV? Am I the only one annoyed and even offended by Big Pharma’s attempt to manipulate us as physicians?

What ’s the point of having the patient show up at the doctor’s office already asking for a drug by name except to pressure doctors into prescribing that particular product? After all, the patient doesn’t have the slightest idea if that drug is right for them or not.

Is this not an attempt by Big Pharma to coerce physicians into prescribing these products? Aren’t they trying to manipulate us by the shear volume of requests; enlisting the buying public to do the dirty work for them?

The doctor then has to waste exam time explaining to the patient why he or she does not need that med or why he prefers a different product.

This creates a doubt in the patient’s mind that maybe they aren’t getting the best care. They can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t do better if their doctor would only let them try the new magic pill.

I mean, how irresponsible can you get? Telling patients to ask their doctor if “the purple pill” might be right for them? Since when did the drug company and/or the patient become the one determining what is – or even if – a med should be prescribed?

New isn’t necessarily better. Most of these new drugs have a limited track record. There are far cheaper generics with decades of safety evidence that are probably a better choice for the patient. Furthermore, most of the advertising is for something equivalent, but usually more expensive than the generic alternative.

So what can we as doctors do?

Well, I believe we live in an over-medicated society as it is. I do not intend to add to the problem by writing scripts just because someone saw a TV commercial.

In fact, I plan to make it a point NOT to prescribe any med advertised on TV unless it is clearly the superior choice for the patient. Perhaps I’m being naive. After all, I’m just a med student at this point and haven’t yet experienced the real world of medicine and big business.

Nevertheless, I think the pharmaceutical companies are being totally irresponsible. I think there should be a ban on drug companies advertising directly to the public. I think they should restrict their promotional efforts to medical doctors; the only people who have the ability to evaluate the medication.

I don’t expect to see this happen any time soon. I’m not that naïve.


Anonymous said...

Published on www.brainblogger.com

Your Television as you doctor?

Often, usually on television, one viewing will often at times 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 they 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 involves money spent that could be applied to greater uses, according t 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 and, 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. Furthermore, the FDA has admitted that they are ignorant as far as the content of such DTC ads, in relation to their accuracy and clarity, as well as their effect on the health care system.
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 suc 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, so it seems, 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 can regain control of their purpose, which is far from financial prosperity.
“Ignorance is not innocence but sin.” --- Robert Browning
Dan Abshear
Author’s note: What has been written was based on information and belief

Fizzlemed said...

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