Monday, January 05, 2009

Are Big Pharma's Ad Changes Enough ?

news you may not know

How Fast Are You?

It's a familiar situation, played out in countless households every night. It's well after midnight and someone, maybe even a child, develops a sudden fever. Chills and nausea quickly follow and, well, it's probably just a stomach flu. But then things go from bad to worse and the ankles start to ache, there's a sharp pain just beneath the rib cage on the right side, and...

You know it's time to take action so, though it's terribly late, you do what any responsible person would-you flip on the television and start channel surfing like your life depends on it.

OK, so it may not be quite that bad, but the money spent in Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising is over the top. And, sadly, more Americans are getting their health information from these television commercials every day.

But, is that a problem?

Consider: the drug industry spends about $5 billion every year in DTC ads. Ads that Big Pharma says are designed to inform and educate the public about a variety of treatment options. Much in the same way, one can imagine, that Hollywood trailers are designed to disseminate accurate information about a movies content, allowing a better-informed public to make a reasoned decision at the box office.

Consider: there are currently just a handful of countries that allow Direct-to-Consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. OK, so "handful" is a stretch, unless the hand in question has been diminished through an unfortunate accident. Only the United States and New Zealand allow this type of direct targeting of consumers.

So, is that a problem?

Well, that depends. If you feel you can trust Big Pharma to be square with you about its wares, and you're really quick with the remote, you may be good. But if you'd like to play things a bit more cautiously, you may want to cancel that late night appointment with the television "doctor" and find a less biased resource.

To read more about the advertising changes Big Pharma is promising, see this from Reuters. To find reference information about specific prescription medications, see this from Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.


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