As I’ve written before, I am troubled by direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs. Only a doctor who knows your medical history and has done and interpreted any necessary tests can determine whether you need a prescription drug and which one you should be taking.
Now, a few lawmakers have proposed bills that would help limit this practice. Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article about the legislative proposals:
“For some legislators and consumer advocates, the ads are a daily reminder of a health care system run amok. Critics contend that drug ads are intended to prompt people to diagnose themselves with chronic quality-of-life problems like insomnia or restless leg syndrome; lead people to pressure their doctors for prescriptions for expensive brand-name drugs to treat these conditions; and steer people away from cheaper generic pills.
“And, critics say, such ads may overstate benefits and understate risks of drugs, or by drumming up audiences for the latest pills at a time when the side effects of such drugs may not yet be fully known.”
I agree with all the above and hope that Congress will act. One suggested bill would deny pharmaceutical companies a tax break for the cost of creating and running such ads. That sounds like a good start. The rest of us shouldn’t subsidize these direct-to-consumer ads through our tax dollars.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH