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Should Drugs Be Advertised on Television?

The last time I had TV in my home was when the Bulls finished their string of six world championships with Michael Jordan nearly ten years ago. I watched nearly everyone of Michael's games as he was one of the most awesome atheletes ever. At that time it was illegal for any drug company to have direct to consumer ads on television. But that has long changed. I really haven't had the chance to view any of these ads, but I know they are being broadcast. The drug companies are spending over 3 billion dollars every year in this area and it has been very effective in helping them sell their product.

Leading conventional medicine experts are questioning this policy.

Celebrex and Vioxx, taken by millions of patients worldwide, were heavily advertised on television and in magazines and were considered blockbuster successes for their manufacturers. But though Vioxx had fewer side effects on the stomach than earlier generations of arthritis medicines, none of the three drugs was proved to be markedly better at reducing pain. FDA officials have not publicly addressed the issue of whether high-powered advertising campaigns for newly approved drugs are in the best interest of public health.

"The heart attack risks of arthritis painkillers Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex have exposed a regulatory "house of cards" at the Food and Drug Administration" This was written by Dr. Eric J. Topol is the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and he has been an outspoken critic of the drug companies in the Vioxx catastrophe. JAMA has pre released an editorial he wrote for next month's issue and allowed the public free access to it (link below).

In the article Dr. Topol continues to write: "These drugs were mass-marketed from the moment they were commercially available in the new world of direct-to-consumer advertising, with unrealistic expectations about pain relief, marked gastrointestinal protection and safety. One has to question the wisdom of allowing direct-to-consumer advertising for lifestyle medications that have no capability of preserving life or preventing major events such as heart attack or stroke."

Folks, I think it is high time the FTC reevaluates their policy of allowing drugs to be advertised on TV. But since pharmaceutical companies have spent more money lobbying Congress than other health care organizations we may never see the FTC reverse its policy unless the public cries loud enough or 50,000 more people are killed.

JAMA January 2005;293 Free Full Text Pre Publication Article

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