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Home ► Blog ► Pharmaceutical Marketing: How Drug Ads Influence Health Care
When was the last time you saw an ad for a pharmaceutical medication? What about the last time a pharmaceutical ad influenced your medical decisions? As patients and consumers, we are bombarded by pharmaceutical advertisements. It is uncommon to go more than a few hours without seeing a commercial, or reading an ad online. The pharmaceutical marketing industry spends billions of dollars each year on advertisements.
Pharmaceutical marketing is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pharmaceutical marketing uses advertisements including anything written, spoken, or televised to promote pharmaceutical medications. The FDA works to ensure that pharmaceutical manufacturers are accurate and not misleading in their advertisements.
Today’s levels of pharmaceutical advertising have not always existed. Prior to the 1980s, doctors and pharmaceutical sales representatives agreed that consumers did not have enough of a medical understanding to choose their own prescriptions. Due to this lack of public knowledge surrounding medications, pharmaceutical sales reps sold directly to doctors. Patients would have to learn about new pharmaceutical medications from their doctors. However, doctors often found themselves swamped by advertisements, and it was difficult for new pharmaceutical medications to grab their attention and find their way onto the market. While doctors were inundated with advertisements, sales reps struggled to sell their products.
In the mid-1980s, direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads first started popping up. These direct-to-consumer ads were the first pharmaceutical ads to skip doctors, going first to patients. Today, they are a key component in pharmaceutical advertising.
When pharmaceuticals were first advertised, the manufacturer had to list any and all potential side effects. However, an FDA ruling in 1997 allowed manufacturers to list only the most significant potential side effects. Since that list is often short, advertisers also have to inform viewers as to where they can find more information regarding their product.
The changes the FDA made to advertising in 1997 allowed pharmaceutical companies to advertise more than ever before. By only having to list significant side effects, these companies were able to advertise more medications in less time. The pharmaceutical marketing industry expanded even more.
Although research shows that increased advertising has not increased drug prices, it is undeniable that advertising has changed how we are sick. The uptick of pharmaceutical advertisements has made it incredibly easy for patients to make suggestions to doctors about what medications they want to take. If a viewer sees an ad that they feel will improve their medical condition, they can schedule a visit with their doctor and request that prescription. This has allowed patients as consumers more freedom in their medical decisions.
Advertising is everywhere, but it is key to do due diligence as a patient and a consumer prior to taking any medication. Just because a side effect is not mentioned in an ad, does not mean it is not noted elsewhere. Consulting your doctor and reading the product information is often the most effective way to learn the known side effects of a prescription medication. In the instance you are affected by an unlisted side effect, it is possible to report to it to the FDA.
If you have been injured as a result of pharmaceutical medications, you may be eligible for a pharmaceutical medication lawsuit. Contact TorHoerman Law for more information.
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Prescription Drug Advertising.” US Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/PrescriptionDrugAdvertising/default.htm.
Spiegel, Alix. “Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care.” NPR, NPR, 13 Oct. 2009, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113675737.
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