Should consumer prescription drug ads be reined in?

I’ve previously written that direct to consumer drug advertising should be banned, similar to the rest of the world, except for New Zealand.

The main reason reason is that many of the advertised products are for expensive, brand name drugs that have little advantage over their generic counterparts.

In a New York Times’ Room for Debate post on the issue, various viewpoints are presented. I find myself agreeing with internist Jerry Avorn, who writes, “Doctors spend precious minutes of ever-shorter office visits explaining to patients why their cholesterol drug is every bit as good as the one they saw on television, or why feeling sad at the death of a loved one doesn’t require an antidepressant. Hawking medications to the public encourages rapid adoption of new products that may be no better — or even worse — than older, unadvertised generic drugs.”

But, as Dr. Avorn points out, it’s unlikely a ban will ever happen. Instead, he calls for better FDA regulation of such ads, where the risks and benefits of the advertised drugs are more clearly publicized. But with the marketing budget of the pharmaceutical industry dwarfing the funds of the FDA, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

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