According to a major U.S. doctor group, drug companies should stop advertising to consumers directly. The doctors claim that the ads push patients to pursue expensive treatments and inflate the demand for extra therapies.
“It’s a disgusting, dishonorable way to generate sales–but it works. In 2008, the House Commerce Committee found that every $1,000 spent on drug ads produces 24 new patients,1 and a 2003 research report found that prescription rates for drugs promoted with DTC ads were nearly seven times greater than those without such promos.2 Ethics aside, these consumer hustles have proven to be profit bonanzas.” –Dr. Mercola
During a recent vote at the annual meeting in Atlanta, the nation’s American Medical Association decided that they were going to call for a ban on consumer drug commercials in magazines and television commercials.
This vote “reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices,” said AMA Board Chair-elect Patrice A. Harris in a statement announcing the votes result. “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.”
Did you know that marketing directly consumers is illegal in nearly every country except the US? Only one other country is allowed to put up commercials.
The use of ads to market drugs is on the rise. Big pharma spent $4.54 billion on ads in 2014 which is 21% higher than the previous year.
Drug manufacturers claim that ads help the patients learn more about the treatment options of their diseases.
“Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising,” said Tina Stow, a spokeswoman for PhRMA.
“Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners.”
The FDA decided to conduct its own study of adults in the U.S. and ask them questions about the effects of DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) advertising and how they felt about health, doctor-patient relationships and prescription drugs.
- Among respondents who had seen a doctor with the past three months and remembered seeing an ad for a prescription drug, approximately 40-50% said that an advertisement for a prescription drug had caused them to seek more information, for example, about the drug and their health. 
- More than a quarter (27%) of survey respondents in the first survey and 18% in the second survey who had seen a doctor in the last three months said that an ad for a prescription drug had caused them to ask a doctor about a medical condition or illness that they had not talked to a doctor about before.
- Approximately 7% of respondents said they visited their doctor because of something they read or saw, or because of an ad for a prescription drug.
- 42% of respondents agreed strongly or somewhat agreed that DTC ads make it seem as though the drug will work for everyone.
What doctors found is that when patients go into a doctors office with a specific drug already in their mind doctors end up being pressured into going with that one.
When the FDA surveyed 500 U.S. physicians revealed:4
- About 75% believed that DTC ads caused patients to think the drug works better than it did, and many physicians felt some pressure to prescribe something when patients mentioned DTC ads. 
- Only 40% of physicians believed that patients understood well the possible risks and negative effects of an advertised drug from the DTC ad alone. 
- 8% of physicians felt very pressured and 20% felt somewhat pressured to prescribe the specific brand name drug when the patient asked the physician to do so. 
Check out this bonus video about why the drug prices are so high.
Here is another view about why cancer drugs are so expensive from a cancer doctor. What are your thoughts, should companies be allowed to advertise pharmaceutical drugs to consumers? Let us know in the comments below.
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