While browsing the May 20, 2009 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), I thought it would be interesting to count the number of pharmaceutical ads. This well-respected journal is written exclusively for medical physicians and researchers. The final count – 4.
I compared this number to common American magazines. The current issue of Southern Living had 6 drug ads. Good Housekeeping – 7 drug ads. Ladies Home Journal – 16 drug ads… and the winner, Family Circle – 20 drug ads. I can promise you that the target demographic for these magazines is not medical doctors!
Then I discovered that the Magazine Publishers of America openly encourages these DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) type ads. Their website states, “Studies have shown that DTC advertising enhances communications between physicians and patients, raises public awareness about undiagnosed diseases, and informs patients about the benefits and risks of using prescription drugs to treat medical conditions.”
As a health care provider who reviews patients’ lists of medications, I have met very few people who actually discussed the risks/benefits of taking medication with their medical doctors.
If I could reword the MPA’s statement on drug ads, it would say: “Studies have shown that DTC advertising enhances profitability among drug companies, raises public dependency on medication, and misinforms patients about the risks of using prescription drugs to treat symptoms.”
If people actually pulled out a magnifying glass to read the fine print, they’d think twice before taking these drugs. That’s because side effects like glaucoma, myocardial infarction, impotence, uncontrollable anal leakage, and death have a way of changing peoples’ minds about taking pharmaceuticals. They’re real party-poopers. So that’s why it’s written in teeny-tiny letters, tucked under complicated charts and squeezed between medical verbiage that the average person can’t decipher.
The only people legally allowed to give you these drugs are medical physicians. They’re qualified to know when and when not to prescribe them… And yet drug companies are spending less money advertising in the journals these doctors read, and pumping gobs of money into the magazines read by Joe Public. How much you ask? Over $5 Billion dollars per year (double the net worth of Donald Trump).
I have to applaud Time Magazine for only allowing one drug ad in this week’s issue. They published this article, Do Consumers Understand Drugs Ads?, and obviously stand by their beliefs. If you have time, watch the 98-second video in the middle of the page about deceptive drug commercials. It’s quite informative.
Women’s eNews suggests that, “These commercials may pose a hazard to women’s health.”
I’ve long told my patients that nutritional supplements advertised on TV or sold through the mail aren’t worth buying. I also believe that the very best medications don’t have to be advertised.
I never watch/read drug ads for educational purposes. Instead, they’re sources of entertainment. I get a chuckle out of the clever new ways drug companies reword disgusting and dangerous side effects. They’ll never convince me otherwise… and my hope is that you too will start questioning their motives.
P.S. – Here’s a funny SNL skit mocking drug ads.