(direct to consumer) prescription drug ads contend that the ads inform patients about diseases and possible treatments, encourage people to seek medical advice, help remove stigma associated with medical conditions, and provide needed sales revenue to fund costly research and development (R&D) of new drugs.
opponents contend that DTC drug ads misinform patients, promote drugs before long-term safety-profiles can be known, medicalize and stigmatize normal conditions and bodily functions like wrinkles and low testosterone, waste valuable medical appointment time, and have led to our society’s overuse of prescription drugs.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug ads encourage people to seek medical advice from health professionals. 64% of physicians surveyed in Apr. 2013 agreed that DTC ads encourage patients to contact a health professional. A 2010 Prevention Magazine survey reported that 29 million patients talked to their doctors about a medical condition after seeing DTC prescription drug ads and most discussed behavioral and lifestyle changes; over half of those patients received non-prescription or generic drugs rather than the brand-name prescription drug seen in the ad, meaning that talking to the doctor was the real benefit. Patients with lower incomes and education levels who are less likely to seek medical care in general were more likely to see a doctor after seeing DTC prescription drug ads. 73% of doctors thought patients asked thoughtful questions because of DTC ads and about 33% of patients thought of a question to ask their doctors as a result of a DTC drug ad.
On the other hand, some people are of the view that Direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads misinform patients. 63% of physicians surveyed in Apr. 2013 believed DTC prescription drug ads misinformed patients and 74% of physicians believed DTC prescription drug ads overemphasized the benefits of the drugs, resulting in misinformed patients. It is believed 43% of the claims in DTC drug ads were “objectively true” while 55% were “potentially misleading” and 2% were “false.” DTC prescription drug ads are often above the recommended 8th grade reading level for mass-distributed information, meaning a lot of consumers cannot understand the information presented. Most DTC prescription drug ads spend more time on benefits than negative side effects. 84% of regulatory letters sent by the FDA from 1997 to 2006 cited ads for minimizing risks and/or exaggerating effectiveness of drugs.
DTC prescription drug ads inform patients about diseases/medical conditions and possible treatments. DTC prescription drug ads helped educate them about drugs, medical conditions, and treatments. Doctors agree that ads “inform, educate, and empower” patients.
On the other hand, it is believed that Direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads misinform patients.
63% of physicians surveyed in Apr. 2013 believed DTC prescription drug ads misinformed patients and 74% of physicians believed DTC prescription drug ads
“left out important information, exaggerated information, provided opinions, or made meaningless associations with lifestyles.”One study found 43% of the claims in DTC drug ads were “objectively true” while 55% were “potentially misleading” and 2% were “false.” DTC prescription drug ads are often above the recommended 8th grade reading level for mass-distributed information, meaning a lot of consumers cannot understand the information presented. Most DTC prescription drug ads spend more time on benefits than negative side effects.84% of regulatory letters sent by the FDA from 1997 to 2006 cited ads for minimizing risks and/or exaggerating effectiveness of drugs.
DTC prescription drug ads promote drugs before long-term safety information is known. According to an Apr. 2013 survey, 68% of doctors agree that prescription drugs are marketed before safety profiles can be known. Although the FDA does not approve ads before they air on TV or radio, 50% of consumers surveyed thought DTC prescription drug ads were approved by the government. 43% of consumers surveyed thought the drug had to be 100% safe before being advertised but not all drugs have completed long-term safety trials before advertising begins. Vioxx was advertised, requested by patients, and prescribed from 1999 to 2004 for arthritis and pain relief before being withdrawn from the market for causing strokes and heart attacks. Vioxx was listed as the primary suspected cause of death in 4,540 mortalities from Jan. 1, 1999 to June 30, 2005. Other drugs like Bextra (for arthritis), Quaalude (a sleeping aid), Cylert(for ADHD), Darvon(for pain relief), and Zelnorm (for irritable bowel syndrome) have been taken off the market for safety concerns after being advertised to the public. Between the 1970s and 2014, at least 35 drugs were pulled from the market, most for safety concerns.
DTC prescription drug ads encourage patient compliance with treatment instructions. 81% of doctors surveyed for a 2007 article published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research thought DTC prescription drug ads had a positive impact on patient compliance (taking drugs as directed). 18% of people responding to a FDA survey said DTC ads reminded them to take their medications.
On the contrary, Normal conditions and bodily functions are medicalized and stigmatized by DTC prescription drug ads. DTC prescription drug ads tell consumers that normal attributes, such as thinner eyelashes, or normal aging processes, such as lower testosterone levels and wrinkles, are medical conditions that need to be remedied with drugs. DTC ads create the idea that normal conditions are “bad,” resulting in the stigmatization of non-problematic conditions. Botox is promoted to treat wrinkles and Latisseis advertised for thin eyelashes while AndroGel is marketed for “LowT” or low testosterone resulting in erectile dysfunction and other conditions. Ads for “Low T” drugs include statements like, “Some men may think loss of energy is just a part of aging. However, low energy may not just be a sign of getting older—it may also be a symptom of Low T.”
DTC prescription drug ads help remove the stigma associated with certain diseases and medical conditions.According to a 2013 CMI/Compass survey, 52% of physicians agree that DTC ads help remove stigma associated with health conditions. The removal of stigma makes it easier for patients to acknowledge their health issues and feel comfortable discussing their health problems with physicians and others. The advertisements for Viagra, for example, have made male sexual dysfunction and treatment commonplace. Ads for drugs treating mental illnesses like depression has contributed to de-stigmatizing those conditions, which have helped patients get treatment.
So briefly , it’s good to categorise the disease and medication that you are prescribed by the doctor. Advertisements about certain medications and conditions spread awareness and removes stigma about that particular condition. But we should consult a doctor before leading to a conclusion about the disease process and the medication that we are taking.
In the field of physiotherapy and rehabilitation, there are lots of techniques like Pilates , Swiss ball exercises which are being shown on television, but the exact usage of these and the condition in which it can be used , has to be decided by a physiotherapist. Underdoing and overdoing any technique or form of exercise can lead to its under effect or over effect, which isn’t shown on television.
With all the pros and cons discussed , you are a better judge to decide how to take these advertisements.
Dr Divya Gaur
Senior Physio and Manager