Around 14 years ago, the FDA, that wise government agency that gave the thumbs up to the likes of Trovan, Fen-Phen, and Vioxx, decided to allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to the public. Since then we have seen a wide variety of drugs marketed with the same zeal as sports cars, beer, and laundry detergent.
It’s truly amazing how the people in these advertisements are cured of their ailments. One moment a women is staring blankly into space thinking about how much it would hurt if she jumped off the Sears Tower. Her Golden Retriever reclines at her feet, leash in his mouth, wishing she would. Soon after, she is skipping along the beach, dog leaping for joy, and life is good. Of course, the unsuspecting public doesn’t know that the only drug that will do this is cocaine … Then after a few hours you want to jump off the Sears Tower again.
You can’t watch an evening television program without seeing at least three ads for drugs that enhance erectile function. You would think that every graying 50-year-old guy in the country can’t run the flag up the pole any more. Never mind that it wasn’t all that long ago that one couldn’t utter the word pregnant on television. These ads have messed with the minds of middle-aged men almost as much as the bursting bust line of Barbie did to two or three generations of young women. And the cosmetic surgeons are still reaping the benefits.
So what’s wrong with a few drug ads? Isn’t it all just good information that the consumer can take or leave? People learn all sorts of things about post chemotherapy anemia, heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and the satisfied couple in twin bathtubs thing.
I guess the advertising would be a good thing if you could buy these drugs one aisle over from the beer and chips and all by yourself you had to choose between Lipitor and Crestor. I can see people studying the package inserts and comparing P-values of the studies. Look here, Marge, this study didn’t have nearly enough patients entered to be significant. Yeah, right. Most people would just choose one just because they like the color of the box. This whole scenario, of course, is not the case. Patients rely on their doctor to make recommendations. Why do they need to be sold on what antihypertensive to take?