Direct-to-Consumer Advertising for Prescription Drugs

 Those ubiquitous television advertisements for prescription drugs probably won’t disappear anytime soon, but the pharmaceutical industry has reeled in commercial spending and is expected to announce restrictions on its ads. A number of trends are responsible for the changes to the industry’s advertising strategy. Congress has ramped up its scrutiny of drug advertisements. Fewer new medications have been approved by the FDA in recent years, and previous best sellers have lost the benefits of patent protection.

Prior to 2007, consumer-focused drug advertising had generally been on the increase after the FDA relaxed restrictions on television ads in the late 1990s, and reached a peak of $5.4 billion in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a New York provider of ad data. The ads have introduced TV viewers to such images as the radiant lunamoth promoting Sepracor Inc.’s sleep drug Lunesta, and the benefits of Eli Lilly’s antidepressant Cymbalta because “depression hurts.”

Drug makers count on ads to increase the number of diagnoses of the various syndromes targeted by their medications. And there are studies demonstrating that people who view drug commercials are more likely to ask their doctors for prescriptions. Supporters of drug advertising say the ads increase awareness of disorders and possible treatment outcomes, and can help sidestep medication underuse. Detractors say the ads are misleading and often promise more than they actually deliver.

Where do you come down on the whole direct-to-consumer advertising issue?  Are you a supporter or a detractor?

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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