AMA asks for ban on direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads

by Oct 1, 2015

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Suffering from any serious, disabling illness can be very upsetting. Every aspect of your life can be affected by symptoms like pain, immobility, depression, anxiety or respiratory problems. If your illness is not well understood or if you feel like current courses of treatment are less effective than you’d like, you are often looking for any information on how you can ease your symptoms.

This is one reason why ads for medications have recently come under great scrutiny by the medical community. According to reports, the American Medical Association is asking that all medication ads directed at consumers be banned. The group argues that this practice of marketing directly to patients as opposed to doctors is driving up medication costs and putting patients at risk of being over-medicated.

We’ve all seen these ads on TV, websites and magazines. Usually it shows a person struggling through their day until they “discover” the advertised drug. Then the clouds part, the person’s attitude shifts and life looks better.

In many cases, there is little information about the actual condition the drug is intended to treat. Ads will call out a particular condition and then make claims of how the drug will help. Typically, the ads end with lengthy listings of side effects.

The problem with these ads, the AMA argues, is that patients are being told to “talk to their doctor” about the drugs which is increasing inquiries with doctors for medications that may be completely inappropriate for an individual. Further, patients may be left doubting their doctors and with worries about their health that may very well be unnecessary.

The current advertising method for drugs is also driving up medication costs, according to the AMA. With more people asking for a drug by name because they heard about it on TV, there is a perceived increase of the value of that drug.

Patients can and should be involved in their treatment, particularly when they are suffering from a serious illness that leaves them disabled; but concerns about rising drug costs and over-medication are prevalent. It will be interesting to see if any changes are made to the advertising practices by drug manufacturers and how or if such changes affect patients.

Source: Marketplace, “Doctors vote to stop drug ads to consumers,” Amy Scott, Nov. 18, 2015