Our View

Editorial Board

Drug ads don’t help anybody

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients who mentioned a drug advertisement when going to the doctor were more likely to be prescribed the requested medication. The study said 55 percent of those who mentioned the Paxil ad were given an anti-depressant. Only 10 percent of those who didn’t mention the ad were given the treatment.

This is disturbing on a number of levels. Doctors should be considering the health of the patient above any other influence. If advertisements are influencing physicians’ decisions, the general public would be even further affected by the influential advertising.

We’ve all seen them. A cloudy, depressing day becomes sunshine-filled and green. Attractive models waltz around with smiles on their faces in a bed of flowers. The miracle pill, Paxil, Viagra, whatever, can cure all of life’s ills. Unfortunately, the advertisements gloss over potential side effects in a speed-reading contest at the end of the presentation: Paxil may cause insomnia, diarrhea, dizziness, death …

Drug advertising should not be legal. Physicians have spent more than eight years learning all they can about medicine, and they are the experts. Doctors should be the ones providing the drug information on a personal basis. There is a reason the particular medication must be prescribed by a doctor in the first place. The drug is used to treat an illness doctors must diagnose, or the drug can be potentially dangerous. Advertising, therefore, shouldn’t be any part of the mix.

Drug companies have consistently devoted more and more money to advertising instead of research and development. Roughly $3.2 billion is spent on drug advertising per year. Drug companies are obviously money-making ventures, but the products they peddle must be cutting-edge. Drug companies, like doctors, have an ethical responsibility to provide the most beneficial service they can. This can’t be done if the companies are devoting such large portions of money on distracting advertising.

A lot of the drugs advertised are new ones — a dangerous proposition because newer drugs have a lot of potential side effects that have yet to be discovered. Promoting the drugs through advertisements gives the general public a false sense of security.

The Food and Drug Administration needs to put a stop to drug advertising. Instead, drug companies can directly advertise to those prescribing the medication: the doctors. They, at least, have the knowledge to make an educated decision about the benefits of the particular medication. Drug representatives are already in place, traveling from hospital to medical center promoting specific drugs to doctors.

Drug reps often give out samples of the drug to doctors to give to patients for free. These samples should not be given out. Similar to the brainwashing advertisements, free samples are too much of an incentive to prescribe the promoted medication. This can’t be good for patients.

Drug advertising will increase as long as the government doesn’t step in. The government must do so for our own health.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.