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Are TV Pharmaceutical Ads Damaging? 383

Posted by Cliff
from the decisions-best-left-to-the-professionals dept.
trivialscene asks: "ABC News is carrying an article about a recently published study in the medical research journal Annals of Family Medicine which examined prime time television ads run by pharmaceutical companies. The researchers concluded that the generally ambiguous ads, which appeal almost entirely to emotion rather than fact, tend to confuse viewers. They also suggest that the ads may be creating problems at the doctor's office, as some people might become convinced they need a particular medication and insist on getting it, rather than leaving the decision to trained medical professionals. What do you think about the presence of drug advertisements on television?"
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Are TV Pharmaceutical Ads Damaging?

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  • not sure (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:21AM (#17844432)
    I dunno. I'm still trying to convince my doctor that Levitra helps you levitate.
    • by djbckr (673156) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:45AM (#17844966)
      I see these heartburn ads on TV and think to myself: These people on the screen are actors, in good health and probably don't get heartburn. The target audience gets heartburn because they eat too much and are overweight.

      I know this because I am friends with a general practitioner (been an MD for about 15 years now) and he tells me that people in shape, like the actors in the commercials - in general - don't get heartburn.

      I also know this because I was one of those people that got heartburn regularly. Once I started eating properly and getting back in shape, my heartburn disappeared.
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:48AM (#17845036)
        So how's the acting career coming along?
        • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:54PM (#17846388) Journal
          The researchers concluded that the generally ambiguous ads, which appeal almost entirely to emotion rather than fact, tend to confuse viewers.

          This is what all ads do. And yes, ads are damaging. All of them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gfxguy (98788)
        For me, it's not how much you eat, it's what you eat.

        I was on daily heartburn medication when I went on a low-carb diet. Haven't used it since. Apparently there were two things at work - the kinds of carbs I was eating spurred acid production, and the fats I was eating more of are harder to digest, so the acid being produced is being used for what it was supposed to be used for: digestion.

        Now, I did lose a lot of weight, but the acid reflux disappeared within days after starting.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tubapro12 (896596)
        I know many people with sensitive stomachs and other digestive conditions who are not overweight and do not eat too much yet still frequent heartburn.
      • by SydShamino (547793) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:49PM (#17846272)
        I'm generally in shape, and I eat moderately well. The problem has to do with what I eat well.

        glass of red wine with dinner = heartburn
        tomato sauce on pasta (or any tomato products) = heartburn
        hamburger = heartburn
        not eating at the correct times = sometimes heartburn (haven't figured this out)

        If I eat enough milk fats with any of the above, I dont't get heartburn. Hence, I mix tomato sauce with a little Alfredo sauce, put cheese on the burger and have a glass of milk, and I don't have a problem.

        Incidentally, this runs in the familiy. My father is on daily prescription medication and needs the valve at the top of his stomach replaced at some point. My older sister now takes daily over-the-counter medication and is still having problems. Both, like me, are generally in shape. My dad's suffered from it for most of his life, and I've been dealing with it since I was 20 or so.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:23AM (#17844486) Homepage Journal
    All that matters is that there are pills that give me erections for hours on end. Balanced against that, who cares about the dumb viewing public?
  • marketing vs R&D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lotsofgadgets (723829) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:23AM (#17844496)
    I think the big wake up call should be the fact that Big Pharma is spending more on marketing their drugs than on developing them in the first place.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gfxguy (98788)
      That's actually not true at all. These companies spend years, maybe tens of years developing their products, then they have to go through more years of testing before they come to market.

      Once they get on the market, they're only heavily advertised for a year or so.

      The ads are also aimed less at the consumer and more at doctors; doctors are the ones that have to prescribe it, after all, so they have to learn about it before patients start asking about it. Otherwise the patients will think the doctor is uni
      • Re:marketing vs R&D (Score:5, Informative)

        by Znork (31774) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:21PM (#17845628)
        "That's actually not true at all."

        Actually, it's entirely true. Take a look at the financials of your average pharmaceutical. They spend less than 20% of revenue on R&D, 40% is marketing and administration, and 40% cost of production and distribution. Some have profits that are twice what they spend on R&D.

        That, of course, means we'd get five times the R&D for the same money we're paying today if we paid for it outright rather than granting monopolies. Or we'd get the same level of R&D at a fifth of the price.
        • Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pkulak (815640)
          I have this discussion with people all the time who seem to think that pharma companies have razor-thin margins and spend all their money on R&D. The truth is that their margins are between 20% and 30% and they spend massive amounts of money on marketing. If you want a company with tiny margins and huge R&D expenses, look at AMD, not Phizer.
        • by AndersOSU (873247) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:25PM (#17847052)
          Ugg, Normally I'm all for slamming big pharma - as a matter of fact let me do that now. I think that the fact that pharma spends more on advertising than R&D (which is true, in spite of GP's shilling comment) is shameful, and that neither consumers, doctors, legislators, nor shareholders should put up with it. And while this may seem like the perfect time to also take a dig at the patent structure - which is badly in need of reform - I don't think the monopoly meme is entirely appropriate here.

          While it is true that each pharma company holds a monopoly on the drugs it invents, pharma is in no way a monopolized industry. If dumping money into R&D were so effective another pharma company with the same outrageous profits could do 5x more research, relying solely on academic journals to spread the word, and clean up with their vastly more and superior drugs. Unfortunately, pharma doesn't think (maybe rightly so) that an investment in R&D translates 1:1 into profit. Where, on the other hand, they seem to think (probably erroneously) that an investment in advertising translates more effectively into revenue.

          Personally, I think that the solution involves regulating what, when, and how pharma can advertise, and severely regulating the way pharma's sales reps interact with doctors. But hey, as long as they can afford the good lobbiests, none of this will happen, so maybe we really ought to start with some decent lobbying reform.
        • Re:marketing vs R&D (Score:4, Informative)

          by mrfunnypants (107364) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:35PM (#17847272)
          This is not entirely true as well. The problem with pharmaceutical companies is when they report financials they have a category labeled as "Selling, Informational and administrative expenses." SG&A is the income statement item which combines salaries, commissions, and travel expenses for executives and salespeople, advertising costs, and payroll expenses.

          For example looking under Pfizer's recent released financials you will see they spent 7,599 and 835 on R&D costs (clearly stated) while spending 15,589 on SG&A. Assuming SG&A all goes to marketing, which is incorrect, you would get a good 32% on marketing and 17% on R&D. However as stated SG&A is not just marketing. If you could figure out what percentage of SG&A is marketing then you would be correct.

          If I recall correctly congress was going to pass a bill which would of required pharmaceutical companies to report the true percentage spent on marketing but due to lobbying it was shot down.
        • by slughead (592713) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @02:23PM (#17848154) Homepage Journal
          That, of course, means we'd get five times the R&D for the same money we're paying today if we paid for it outright rather than granting monopolies. Or we'd get the same level of R&D at a fifth of the price.

          Oh of COURSE that's what it means.

          Maybe they need that marketing to sell the drugs to pay for the R&D to make the drugs and the best way to do that is to pay for more advertisements.

          You think companies like to advertise? They would rather give the money to R&D if the drugs actually sold themselves. Most drugs, however, do not sell themselves. Most of the medication sold in this country has little effect or could easily be replaced by an older drug which is 1/10 the cost and only 3 to 4% less effective.

          Another problem is that if the patient dies, that '3 to 4%' figure is brought up in COURT in the form of a malpractice suit against the doctor that prescribed the alternative!

          The niche medications which treat ailments that effect 1% of the population have a high price and the research in finding them is often NEVER PAID OFF. It's a tightly held secret that drug companies often pursue avenues that yield JACK SQUAT.

          The worthless 'celebrex' and 'nexium' medications pay for those dead ends and niche drugs. And their marketing allows them to do that.

          Drugs like Celebrex which show barely any improvement over placebo, and medications that take care of problems related to obesity (a relatively easily-cured disease) wouldn't be flying off the counters if it weren't for those commercials.

          If the drug companies cut their marketing in half, freeing up 20% of their revenue according to your figures (which, btw, are wrong), they may end up having half the revenue to work with. So they'd have -50% less money and +20% more, for a net of -30%. Those are obviously arbitrary figures, but you can see the point: less marketing does not mean more money for R&D.

          So, to sum up, the pharmaceutical system in the US is the best money could buy. If central planning were the answer, the US wouldn't be lapping the socialized world in pharmacological research. When government starts telling doctors what to prescribe and price fixing on drugs in America, we'll see a quick restructuring inside these companies in which R&D will fall through the floor.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by DM9290 (797337)
            "So, to sum up, the pharmaceutical system in the US is the best money could buy. "

            Actually what you have done is prove that the US pharma system is about the WORST that money can buy.

            Pushing placebos and snake oil on an uneducated public is NOT the right way to fund R&D.

            Even if most R&D in breakthrough drugs was funded privately, which it is NOT. Most private R&D is in copycat drugs which provide little or no medical benefit over existing drugs and are pursued as a way to bust through the mono
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UncleTogie (1004853) *
        I used to run IT at a local medical practice, and we had pharm reps in all the time. Surprisingly, they use the same "Look at the monkey! Look at the monkey!" tricks the Sheeple get on TV, but in person.

        First, riddle me this: When's the last time you saw an ugly rep? Most of those salesfolk we saw were women, cuties, 20s-30s. They brought the doctor and staff free lunch from the nearest Olive Garden or the like, and just sat around and shot the bull for the first half of lunch. Alway complimentary and a
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by yali (209015)

          First, riddle me this: When's the last time you saw an ugly rep? Most of those salesfolk we saw were women, cuties, 20s-30s.

          That's because drug companies actively recruit cheerleaders [nytimes.com] to work as reps.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
          Any doctor who falls for that routine is a failure as a doctor.

          Good thing the AMA restricts the supply of doctors. What would we do without it?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ozeki (466460)
        If the doctor that I am seeing is only finding out about the medicine he/she is prescribing then I am in big trouble. T.V. ads are for consumers only. Doctors are buried in advertising from pharma sales reps, one of the most profitable jobs around.

        In the insurance industry it is widely accepted that the commericals actually do more harm to the cost of prescription drugs. If you had never heard of Viagra but were instead given the generic, you wouldn't have a care in the world. Both have the same result,
      • Re:marketing vs R&D (Score:4, Informative)

        by bobcat7677 (561727) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:21PM (#17846974) Homepage
        The ads are also aimed less at the consumer and more at doctors; doctors are the ones that have to prescribe it, after all, so they have to learn about it before patients start asking about it. Otherwise the patients will think the doctor is uninformed.

        Hate to break it to you, but the ads ARE in fact aimed at the consumers. They are telling YOU to ask your doctor. You the consumer. And lucky for them there are millions of mild hypocondriacts out there that go running to their doctor the first chance they get to get a script. And for the most part the doctors ARE uninformed about the drugs they are perscribing. Pharmacists are the ones that actually have to learn about the drugs and try to catch as many dangerous interactions the doctors may or may not know about as they can. There are a whole lot of doctors out there that happilly collect the office visit fee, write the script, and then wait to collect again when their patient comes back complaining about the side effects from the dangerous medication they are taking (and didn't really need in the first place). Its a vicious cycle that is the #1 biggest reason health care is so "expensive" in the US these days (followed by the #2 reason: rapent medical malpractice settlements, most of which are kept off the public records).

        Viagra is a perfect example of a drug completely out of control. How "nessasary" is it for most of the millions who are taking it? How dangerous is it? How easilly can just about anybody email a less then completely ethical doctor somewhere and have a script mailed to them? Lets run down the possible side effects:
        flushing, headache, nasal congestion, stomach discomfort following meals, abnormal vision including blurred vision, seeing shades of colors differently than before, or sensitivity to light, bladder pain, cloudy or bloody urine, dizziness, increased frequency of urination, pain on urination, diarrhea, bleeding of the eye, convulsions (seizures), decreased or double vision or other changes in vision, prolonged, painful, or inappropriate erection of penis, redness, burning, or swelling of the eye, anxiety

        at least this one has relatively "mild" side effects compared to some other drugs. I have seen heartburn medication that had a possible side effect listed of "Death"...no joke. Guess they figure if you die you won't have that heartburn any more and it's a win for them.

        If laws exist to keep cigarettes and alcohol from being advertized to minors, shouldn't stuff that has been shown to cause even more prompt death or permanent damage be more tightly regulated in who it's pushed on?

        I was a pharmacist's assistant.
    • by VJ42 (860241)

      I think the big wake up call should be the fact that Big Pharma is spending more on marketing their drugs than on developing them in the first place.

      Well, thankfully here in the UK they are banned from advertising perscription medication to the public; they have to do that to the doctors, afterall it's a doctors job to know what drug I need, I can then go and research it but at least it doesn't encourage hypocondria.

      Over the counter medicines, however are advertised here with as much vigour as anywhere else, so all those cough and cold remidies that are basically just paracetamol each get their own advert.

    • by chevelle496 (1058560) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:40PM (#17846070)
      IAAD, and I think you have a very valid point. Most of the drugs advertised on television here in the US are high dollar moneymakers for the pharma companies. In my opinion, this is the biggest problem - the vast majority of the time, much cheaper generic medications which are equivalent (or sometimes superior) in efficacy are available. The ads are just marketing and serve to drive up the already astronomical price of healthcare in the US. Personally, I usually ignore requests and spend a few minutes talking with my patients and explaining to them why "Expensiva" is not the best choice based on side effects, costs, or available randomized controlled trials. Yes, this does take a bit more time, and others might just give in and prescribe, but one of a physician's most important skills is communication.
  • by PDMongo (225918) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:25AM (#17844528) Journal
    Every time I see one of those ads I can't help but think that it isn't my job to try and convicen my doctor to prescribe some drug, it is the doctor's job to know what drugs are available and prescribe them to me.

    If the drug companies want me to sell my doctor on their particlar product, I should get a commission every time they write me the prescription.
    • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:31AM (#17844672) Homepage Journal
      A friend of mine is a GP, and he is pretty sick and tired of his patients asking him about whatever drug was last advertised while they were watching Oprah and therefore extra suggestible. His standard response is something like "If you want the professional medical opinion of your television, visit it instead of me. You're not buying dishwashing liquid here."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by eln (21727)
        Your friend sounds like a good doctor. Many doctors I've seen will prescribe you anything you ask for if you can rattle off the symptoms the drug claims to treat and claim to be suffering from them. When the doctor sees the patient for maybe 5 minutes per visit, this sort of thing happens. You give them some symptoms, they maybe take a blood test to make sure you won't die from the drug, and then prescribe it. This is the reason these ads are working so well: patients are convinced they need it, and do
        • I'm not sure ignoring patients' comments necessarily makes a good doctor. I'm sure there are a lot of idiots saying dumb shit to their doctors. And I don't blame doctors for just gradually filtering out that stuff and ignoring what the patients have to say. But I don't know if it's good.

          In the times I've dealt with doctors I've come to realize that the vast majority of them are not interested in listening to your self-diagnosis. And we probably have idiotic patients brainwashed by advertising to thank for

        • The REAL reason this works for the drug companies is the patients don't have to pay for the drugs, or only pay a small portion of the cost. Their insurance company hides the real cost of the drug from the patient.

          If patients are spending their own money on drugs they don't need, no biggie. But when they use their insurance to pay for drugs they don't need, everyone ends up paying more for insurance.

          This doesn't need to be solved by the government. Insurance companies just need to reduce or eliminate thei
      • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:49PM (#17847520)

        "If you want the professional medical opinion of your television, visit it instead of me. You're not buying dishwashing liquid here."

        You're seeing Dr. House?

    • by yali (209015) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:28PM (#17847110)

      it isn't my job to try and convicen my doctor to prescribe some drug, it is the doctor's job to know what drugs are available and prescribe them to me.

      Actually, both of you have a job (though you're totally correct that yours isn't to act as a drug sales rep). What's insidious about this kind of advertising is that it exploits what should be a good trend. The old model of "doctor knows best, do whatever he tells you" isn't ideal. The best case scenario is when a patient becomes informed about his/her health and makes decisions in consultation with the doctor, drawing on the doctor's expertise.

      When I was seriously ill a few years back, my doctors (who were outstanding btw) encouraged me to do research on my own. I scoured medical databases and brought that info to my doctors, who helped me sort through it. I think it elevated the quality of my care, and it made me feel like I retained some control over a scary illness.

      Unfortunately, by feeding patients information that is biased or misleading and playing to emotion rather than providing useful information, these ads are probably eroding the kind of doctor-patient relationships that everyone should have.

  • YES (Score:5, Informative)

    by zubernerd (518077) * on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:26AM (#17844552)
    YES.

    My mom's an MA (medical assistant) and my wife is a medical student (M2), and both tell me that those ads are a problem.

    I hate hearing about people demanding drugs after seeming them on TV, thinking they know better than a professional with 4+ years of training. I watched my wife study for her pharm course, and all the interactions, contraindications, etc is enough to make her head spin a little bit (and mine a lot). Also, most of the time an off-patent generic drug that's been around for years is more beneficial than those new drugs being advertised.

    It's the like the old joke about the old lady who wants that new arthritis drug: Viagra.
  • I think they tell me what drugs to avoid.

    Seriously, if they want untrained lemming to make the decision on use, rather than trained professionals, then I suspect the product is not good quality. And the commercials, as stated, target the untrained and unknowing, not the doctors and professionals
    • I sort of agree with you, but at the same time disagree ...

      Until Viagra was heavily advertized most men would never admit that they ever had problems obtaining an erection even to their doctor, after the advertizements I'm certain that way more men feel comfortable talking about impotence with their doctors and finding out what treatment is available.

      The problems I have with drug advertizing is that, like all marketing, they often prey on the fact that people are generally not satisfied with their life; the
  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThePolkapunk (826529) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:27AM (#17844576) Homepage
    Short answer: Yes. Long Answer: Your doctor is the one who should know about medicine. If he finds out about medication from advertisements on TV, it is time to choose a new doctor. If he finds out about medication from patients who saw advertisements on TV, it is time to choose a doctor. If he will prescribe medication to you based solely upon your request because you saw an advertisement on TV, it is time to choose a new doctor. His knowledge of medication should be completely restricted to facts, such as effects and clinical studies. Any time a doctor is being influenced by an advertisement, whether it be from television or the frequent free catered meals and trips with which pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors, your health is being put in jeapordy.
    • Bear in mind that many doctors prescribe from the free samples they have laying about. 'Hmm... got condition X? Try this', hands sample pack. This is especially prevalent for antidepressants-- admitably, the choice of which anti-d to take is pretty much a russian roulette until you find one that works for your particular neurochemistry.

      Doctors are often overwhelmed by the huge number of potential drugs. Most tend to settle into the 1 or 2 they typically prescribe for a given condition, rather than knowin
    • by Pojut (1027544)
      I hate to tell you this, but MANY doctors know very little of what is on the market...a large portion of the ones I deal with on a daily basis (I work for a pharmaceutical consulting group, and speak to close to 70 doctors around the country every day...no not the same 708 every day) and a very large number of them do not know what alternatives there are to certain drugs or even what drugs are available for a given condition. Granted, there are doctors out there that are like encyclopedia's, but they are V
      • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary&yahoo,com> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:05PM (#17845328) Journal
        Me too. Here's my favorite Bill Hicks quote, very relevant to the issue at hand:

        By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing... kill yourself.

        No, no, no it's just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root - I don't know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself.

        Seriously though, if you are, do.

        Aaah, no really, there's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers. Okay - kill yourself - seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you're going, "there's going to be a joke coming," there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself.

        Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, "he's doing a joke..." there's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend - I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking makinations. Machi... Whatever, you know what I mean.

        I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, "Oh, you know what Bill's doing, he's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart."

        Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags!

        "Ooh, you know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research - huge market. He's doing a good thing."

        Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scum-bags! Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

        "Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill's very bright to do that."

        God, I'm just caught in a fucking web.

        "Ooh the trapped dollar, big dollar, huge dollar. Good market - look at our research. We see that many people feel trapped. If we play to that and then separate them into the trapped dollar..."

        How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don't you?

        "What didya do today honey?"

        "Oh, we made ah, we made ah arsenic a childhood food now, goodnight." [snores] "Yeah we just said you know is your baby really too loud? You know?" [snores] "Yeah, you know the mums will love it." [snores]

        Sleep like fucking children, don't ya, this is your world isn't it?
        So, do you think that if doctors don't know the alternatives, we should advertise to the patients?

        What exactly does a "pharmaceutical consulting group" do, anyway? Something good, like "Facilitate open communication between drug companies and doctors?" Or something bad like "Figure out how to push more drugs whether people need them or not?"
        • by Pojut (1027544)
          Nope, we are the good guys. We primariy run patient assistance programs and help out with prior authorization appeals.

          For those not in the know:

          PAP (patient assistance programs) basically means say you are 70 and your only income is social security. You need this injectable drug for the arthritis in your knees. Well, say you cannot afford your copayment. We will either A. Convince the insurance company to lower your copayment. B. Reimburse you in full for the copayment. Or C. Give you the drug for fr
          • by spun (1352)
            Ah, that's cool. On my plan, I need PA for almost anything that doesn't come in generic. Gah, HMOs. Are they really the best way to handle our health? Personally, I think the free market breaks down in situations where people can basically be counted on not to act rationally. Almost anyone with major health concerns can be counted on not to act rationally, and many in the industry take advantage of that fact.

            As an industry insider, do you have any thoughts on the best way to handle health care? Do you think
    • WRONG! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dafz1 (604262)
      One, new drugs come out ALL of the time. It is impossible for a doctor to know every new drug out there, even with continuing education. These commercials, along with the "pharmaceutical companies bribes" and "pharm babes"(cute drug reps), serve a purpose in educating doctors as well as consumers.

      Two, doctors don't know all of the existing drugs before they graduated from medical school, did their residency, etc. They don't have full knowledge of the thousands of drugs that were out there, they were too
      • Your troll post might sound genuine enough to the casual reader that I'm going to respond anyway. Your post, though sprinkled with truths, is fundamentally wrong. Here's why:

        One, new drugs come out ALL of the time. It is impossible for a doctor to know every new drug out there, even with continuing education. These commercials, along with the "pharmaceutical companies bribes" and "pharm babes"(cute drug reps), serve a purpose in educating doctors as well as consumers.

        1. New drugs do indeed come out all t

    • by Brickwall (985910)
      What planet do you live on? There is so much new information coming out in the medical field each and every day, all doctors must choose between continuous learning and treating patients. I'm diabetic, and I find there are new drugs, treatments, etc. all the time - and that's just one disease. Why should I expect my GP to keep up on every new thing under the sun? She needs a life too. I spend a couple of hours a day on /., and I don't pretend to be up on every geek thing.

      And if a trip to Bermuda causes m

  • I've tried non-trivial medications three times in the last decade. One I asked my doctor about in a general fashion, "are there any new asthma medications I might want to try". Another I learned about in the newspaper. The last I saw on TV.

    Your doctor doesn't know what you're interested unless you ask. And unless you see an ad you might not know something even exists to ask about. Sure, some people might ask about things they don't need, but that's a lot less troubling than people not asking for something t
    • by joshetc (955226)
      Wtf, you don't need a commercial to tell you if your asthma medication is working or not. If what you already have works you don't need something else. If it doesn't work you should be complaining to your doctor as it is his job to make sure you have the proper medication.
  • From the 'Duhhhhh' department:

    They also suggest that the ads may be creating problems at the doctor's office, as some people might become convinced they need a particular medication and insist on getting it, rather than leaving the decision to trained medical professionals

    Breaking News! The earth has a rich supply of dummies! Most people's so-called thought processes are made up of a patchwork of what their dysfunctional parents thought, what their nee'r do well friends think, what the TV shows thrust upo
  • by otacon (445694)
    Raise your hand if you've tried to talk yourself into thinking you have restless leg syndrome. It seems the ads are geared towards making you consider medication you might not need.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      What about Ambien? The drug to help you calm your restless mind? With all the shit going on in the world today, only a drugged zombie wouldn't have trouble sleeping some nights. Maybe most nights. Maybe people who can't sleep should take a look at what they can do to improve the world... or maybe their conscience. Yeah, those slave-labor shoes and that oilfield-depleting SUV, they might just be the problem, for those people who still have a conscience... those people who haven't shut it off with drugs, that
      • by otacon (445694)
        Yeah really, ambien is known for being dependence forming...they might as well be like hey does your back hurt? ask your doctor about Oxycontin!...or Hey, work and stress getting to you? Try Valium twice daily for desired effects!...for some reason I don't think it's too far off.
  • I wouldn't support the government banning them, because they are ultimately not much different than advertising many other products, especially since they are already required to read off the list of side effects. Free speech is important.

    But I would support a social movement to make them socially unacceptable. In general, I don't see ads for products that you are literally incapable of safely determining if you need them as a good thing in a world where half the population has below-median IQ.

    Ultimately, t
    • by honkycat (249849)

      A social campaign to encourage doctors to use generics as applicable would also be good on many levels, and you might actually be able to get somewhere with this with a reasonable amount of effort, by targetting the insurance companies.

      You know, it really bugs me that doctors don't already automatically prescribe generics. Most insurance companies I've been on require that the pharmacy substitute a generic if available. Further, they have a relatively short list of name brand medications that they'll ful

  • Not for me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:28AM (#17844608)
    I identified so much with the little unhappy blob thing on the Zoloft ads, that I finally sought treatment. I am finally free of 20+ years of clinical depression thanks to that ad.
  • Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:29AM (#17844628) Homepage Journal
    We're not doctors. We don't know what is wrong with us. We don't know what we need. We shouldn't be going in and requesting specific drugs. The bad thing is that doctors are only getting so much money to see us because of the HMO system, so they get us in and out as fast as possible. If I ask for a certain drug, more than likely I'm going to get it, regardless of whether or not it is beneficial or harmful to my health.

    I also thing as a society we are treating symptoms by developing dependencies on medication rather than fixing problems.

    If drug companies can afford every other Super Bowl commercial, and drug reps can throw money at every doctor and pharmacist in the country, maybe they can afford to sell drugs at reasonable prices to third world countries.

    George W. Bush (love him or hate him, who am I kidding, everyone hates him) maybe did one thing right. He found American drug companies were charging five times as much for AIDS medications in Africa as they charged here. They openly profitted from people's deaths, and played upon their fears.

    And yes, I believe their ads play upon emotions. I'd like to see a ban on drug ads on TV. They can spend the money in better places, like further drug research or third world countries.
    • Oops. I didn't finish my thought because I was typing so fast.

      Bush told the drug companies that if they didn't lower the cost of AIDS medicine in Africa, he would forbid those companies from selling out of the country period and allow someone else to take over that market. He also fought drug companies to lower costs of prescriptions for senior citizens.

      Not even Bush likes drug companies.
    • We're not doctors. We don't know what is wrong with us. We don't know what we need.

      Doctors talk out of their asses all the time. Let me give some examples:

      I broke a finger many years ago. Pretty quickly it was obvious that it wasn't quite pointing in quite the right direction. "Your finger will point the right way when the swelling goes down". It was completely obvious to me that there was no way that a bit of swelling could have been pushing half my finger in the wrong direction. 3 months later I'm told

  • "...as some people might become convinced they need a particular medication and insist on getting it..."

    Of course that's why they're advertising the medication! We can't honestly believe that those ads are only for doctors when they air to a national audience. I really disagree with the viagra/etc ads because they glamorize being on a prescription drug for pleasure and not to cure some disease (i.e. ED).
  • by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @11:35AM (#17844758) Homepage Journal
    TV adverts for drugs are so lightly legislated over here that they are effectively banned (as are all drug adverts). The only one I can remember was a Pfizer advert that was so vague it only really seemed to be about Pele's inability to keep it (presumably a soccer ball) up.

    Our medical system is based on the principle that if for have something wrong with you, you see a doctor, and the doctor prescribes the right drug for it if one exists. Therefore, drug companies market to doctors, not to patients, which seems the most sensible way to do it - after all a drug company's spend on advertising is spread a lot less thinly if they only advertise to doctors.
    • by certsoft (442059)
      The US and New Zealand are the only two countries that allow advertising prescription drugs on TV. When I was down in NZ recently there was talk of stopping that practice there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nido (102070)
      Our medical system is based on the principle that if for have something wrong with you, you see a doctor, and the doctor prescribes the right drug for it if one exists.

      This is the fundamental reason why our medical system fails it. While drugs have their place, they usually aren't the best response to an illness. But, in Fascist America (de facto integration between corporations and the government), all the health options that are NOT drugs or surgery get labeled 'alternative', and you generally have to dis
  • About 5 years back I was in for a regular checkup and asked the doc to write me a prescription for a drug I didn't need because it was sold in two versions - one brand name for an 8mg dose for one symptom and a different brand name for 2mg dose for another symptom. The kick was that the 8mg dose and the 2mg dose cost the same, so I wanted a script for the 8mg version and a pill cutter to cut them into quarters, for 75% savings on a per dose basis.

    He was very happy to do it because he was sick of the drug m
  • http://www.panexa.com/ [panexa.com]

    "Panexa: ask your doctor for a reason to take it"
  • as some people might become convinced they need a particular medication and insist on getting it, rather than leaving the decision to trained medical professionals.

    Calling this a "problem" is entirely indicative of our totally flawed and failing (if not failed) health care system. The pure arrogance is astounding.

    Make all the available information public, and let us decide. If we want your opinion, o great and revered medical professional, we'll ask. But we don't need or want this profession's nanny-s

  • Plavix says, "No matter how formidable you are, you're no match for a dangerous clot."

    This is incredibly damaging. You know there's going to be some dock worker in New Jersey who desperately needs Plavix who's going to say "Oh yeah? Some fuckin' clot gets in my body I'll whoop its ass!" It's like a dare.

    I wonder how many badasses are going to have to die before they pull this campaign.
  • My brother and his wife completed medical school over a year ago and are both Doctors now (still in residency). This is actually a major concern that has come up both during their time in medical school and now in their work at the hospital. My brother has related how numerous times people come in and try to self-diagnose their issues and suggest treatments even though they are almost always wrong about what they have!

    If you've ever watched "House" when Dr. House is in the clinic and people are always t
    • by Detritus (11846)
      There are also many physicians who don't listen to their patients, since they know better and the patient is, by definition, an idiot. Their patients should just shut-up, pay the bill and get the hell out of the office before they waste any more of the physician's valuable time.
  • That's why you find a good doctor to consult, isn't it? As a corollary, it behooves you to read the fine print and ask your pharmacist for their opinion. They may be better educated about side effects and ultimate results. Anecdotal reports are important in this case! As a third step, you should be careful to note how the medicine affects you. Any points of concern should be addressed with your primary care physician and/or pharmacist.

  • I personally ignore them. I'll trust my doctor over a TV commercial any day. If he thinks I need some drug, he'll suggest or prescribe it.
  • Those ads triggered Bush's Medicare prescription plan, which is a significant portion of the $50 trillion overhang of unfunded future liabilities of the U.S. government. We Gen X'ers don't owe the baby boomers patented drugs. If they want to be drugged off the public dole, they should be happy with ten-year-old drugs (first ten years of patented medicine is with the FDA).
  • Yes because it convinced many that they had "Adult Attention Deficit Disorder" which isn't real or whatnot but rakes in big bucks (ritalin ftw)

    No, because hospitals are more dangerous to your health than any drug ad. So what if people think they need something, if they don't trust their doctor they should get a new one.
  • There is a huge ethical debate within the Healthcare community on Medication Advertising. On one hand, some people might not know that options beyond what the doctor is suggesting exists. This fact makes Medication Advertising an additional component to Informed Consent, an important concept within Healthcare in the USA. On the other hand, every female hypochondriac might be going, "I think I am suffering from ED."

    It does cause Patients to push doctors into subscribing medicine. I am not sure that is any b

  • You can't link a prescription drug with the disease/condition it treats in advertising. So you can have the following ads: -Couple living a happy life... "Talk to your doctor about X" -"Condition Y could be serious, talk to your doctor today about treatments available" So companies produce vague commercials where you have no idea what the drug does, just so they can get the name out there, and commercials hyping up a certain condition just to get people pestering their doctor about possible treatments. Th
  • This is partly why in Canada commercials for pharmaceuticals are restricted to one of the following:

    1. Explain what the drug does, WITHOUT saying its name.
    2. Say the drugs name, but don't explain what it does.

    Hence the reason why our Viagra ads have some guy bouncing (jumping) in a very stiff standing position down a street with a huge smile on his face, then it says: "VIAGRA" at the end.
  • When I moved to the US from Europe I was amazed to see a really terrible pill-popping culture here, where you can (and most people do) get a pill for almost anything, even though adverts on TV make it clear most drugs side-effects are way more serious than the symptom they are attempting to address.

    In the US it seems pefectly acceptable that normal people are on at least one presription at any one time, which is ridiculous. I'm amazed by the amount of perscriptions the average person (i.e. my frinds) have i
  • They also suggest that the ads may be creating problems at the doctor's office, as some people might become convinced they need a particular medication and insist on getting it, rather than leaving the decision to trained medical professionals.

    I'm the ex-wife of a doctor, and I can tell you the inside story about this.

    The truth value of the above quote depends very much on what is meant by 'trained'. If your doctor's training occurred thirty years ago, and if he or she doesn't keep up with the latest re

  • by SnowDog74 (745848) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:39PM (#17846036)
    I left pharmaceutical sales because, quite frankly, I was tired of being nothing more than an interruption in a doctor's day. In fact, I left sales entirely as a result of that experience.

    The entire purpose of pharmaceutical sales at the doctor, clinic and hospital administration level is this: To abnormally influence the prescribing of drugs beyond what information is public by way of peer-reviewed scientific research. The drugs your doctors prescribe are sometimes influenced by how many pens, pads, lunches, dinners and other free crap are given to the physician and/or his staff. The drugs your insurance company covers are most influenced by what pharmaceutical company wines and dines the formulary administrators the most.

    Physicians and administrators who participate in golf junkets, etc., are just as much to blame, but that doesn't remove the culpability of the pharmaceutical companies who know exactly what they're doing and are constantly pushing to be able to intrude even more in the treatment of a patient by way of these methods.

    There are examples of egregious behavior at various levels of the pharmaceutical business ranging from minor nuisances to egregious breaches of ethics. One competing company's rep, while I was covering Mayo Clinic, got his company kicked out for six months by following a physician into his office WHILE the physician was seeing a patient... What was the rep's urgent matter? To deliver his canned sales pitch for his product. There have been pharmaceutical companies nailed for including large gifts in honorariums given to physicians for speaking on behalf of their products.

    Mayo Clinic is one of the few institutions that has extremely strict rules... No pens, no pads, no papers, samples are signed in through a controlled process giving the rep very limited access to physicians. At the same time, they'll gladly throw up a banner for your product if you'll give them a huge research grant... While that's no guarantee that they'll bias the research in the pharma company's favor, human nature is such that money tends to drive a sense of obligation to the benefactor.

    The advertisements have taken the Creationist approach to marketing... by appealing to the opinions and attitudes of the average, uninformed layperson. In doing so, they are still interfering in the process without really contributing anything of value that cannot be obtained by a physician who keeps up by reading the peer-reviewed journals on his or her own time... as a good physician will want to do. Physicians already have a motivation to do this research... it's called avoiding malpractice lawsuits.

    Previously reputable pharmaceutical companies have stepped up and started direct advertising to consumers on television... It's getting worse and the cacophony of products being advertised by these companies creates a confusing atmosphere of insufficient information that does what exactly? The commercials don't begin by encouraging patients experiencing certain symptoms to go see their doctor and let them do their educated diagnoses. The ads begin by summarizing symptoms in a manner that creates a sort of confirmation bias, i.e. rattling off a barrage of symptoms, one of which might lead the viewer to suspect they need the drug... while ignoring the specific COMBINATION of symptoms that preclude a specific diagnosis. Then the ads encourage the patient who SUSPECTS they might have this problem not to go to the doctor and find out the proper course of treatment... but to "ask your doctor for".

    They know what they're doing and even though I agree, simultaneously, in the principle of customer awareness... The ignorance of the average customer does not change the fact that it was the intention of the company to defraud and profit on the basis of that ignorance and therefore does not make the company any less responsible for doing so.

    While I agree that medical science is a luxury and not a public utility, the health of a country's citizens does directly impact the nation's
  • by Gordo_1 (256312) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @12:48PM (#17846246)
    This article [findarticles.com] points out that even doctors are susceptible to drug company advertising:

    "...according to a review published in the Jan. 19, 2000, Journal of the American Medical Association. Ashley Wazana, M.D., of McGill University, analyzed 29 studies of relations between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry and found that the industry's marketing efforts clearly influence doctors' prescribing habits, although most doctors do not believe this to be true."
  • Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Fuck yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

    Between the television ads and the constant payola the pharmaceutical companies are giving to the doctors, you are lucky to get a perscription drug that has a generic. Too many morons demand what they saw during Oprah, and the crooked doctors are more than happy to assume that you are one of them.

    The ads should be banned, but more importantly the pharmaceutical industry needs some good old-fashioned regulation.
  • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:00PM (#17846518) Homepage Journal
    Drug companies spend more on advertising than they do on R&D. And advertising forces them into a business model of producing drugs based on their marketability rather than their medical necessity. And advertising prescription drugs compromises the trust of patients and objectivity of doctors -- who get lots of free samples and personal visits from DrugCo reps all the time, by the way. Oh, and if a drug is marketable, the DrugCo will spend decades patenting gratuitous modifications thereof.

    But back to the subject of this comment: If they're spending more money advertising a pill than developing it, we're paying for them to advertise drugs to us that either we need because a doctor knows we do, or that we want because a commercial told us we do. I mean, what the hell is restless leg syndrome? OH MY GOD! I HAVE A SYNDROME!

    Pharmaceutical companies, and medicine in general, have a rather special ability to jack up their prices almost at will. The industry is a complex controlled by a small handful of players who dan defy market economics and hand us a single proposition: "If you don't buy our services, you'll die." This isn't like the food industry, although ADM, "the supermarket to the world," is trying to make it happen. If caviar is through the roof, I'll do without. If the price of asparagus doubles, I'll buy string beans instead. But if my heart medicine is too expensive, I buy it or I fucking die.

    And they're engaged in unnecessary activities, that dramatically increase costs, by marketing drugs to unqualified decision makers.


  • The FDA wants to control the flow of information to us, because we
    cannot be trusted to make decisions for ourselves.
  • by M0b1u5 (569472) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @01:34PM (#17847240) Homepage
    Only two countries in the world allow Big Pharma to market D2C (Direct To Consumer): The USA and, stupidly, New Zealand. In most respects we (NZ) have a rational government, but in this one regard our politicians fell asleep at the wheel and let the Pharmas take over.

    In my view, there can't be ANY advertising which is less helpful than the pushing of prescription medicines on TV. I'd rather see our local prostitutes get air time.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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