Direct to Consumer advertising has grown to a 4.5 billion dollar-a-year industry. In nearly every magazine and television station we are assaulted with drug ads. Currently the House and the Senate are considering limiting drug-makers from advertising new drugs for a period of 6 months to 2 years. The idea is apparently to find out how the drugs perform before making claims about them. A recent article in the New York Times points out several cases where drug companies make misleading claims in their advertisements;
" The F.D.A. told AstraZeneca, for example, to 'immediately cease' a 'misleading superiority claim' in a 2005 TV commercial. The ad said AstraZeneca’s Crestor was 'clearly the best' in a 'head to head' test with the three largest-selling cholesterol drugs.
Emily Y. Denney, an AstraZeneca spokeswoman, said that by the time the letter was received, in March 2005, the ads were no longer running. The company defended its message in the advertising as 'appropriate.'"
Pharmaceutical companies have the second largest lobby--they contribute a huge amount of money to the political process. Whatever the outcome of the current debate over advertising guidelines, you can count on one thing; drug-makers will continue to advertise to consumers. We know that direct-to-consumer advertising increases sales of drugs--that's why companies spend 4.5 billion! When it comes to the drug industry isn't it more logical to leave the prescribing to trained professionals rather than people susceptible to a sales pitch--especially with more than 100,000 deaths per year due to adverse drug reactions?