Surely, you have noticed drug companies’ TV or radio commercials or seen magazine ads promoting prescription medications. Only America and New Zealand permit direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising. Since the messages between pharmaceutical sales reps, physicians, and pharmacists spread to include patients over 20 years ago, they’ve exposed you to more negatives than positives, according to Vivien Chan, Pharm.D., Group Health’s manager of pharmacy clinical operations, and other experts.
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DTC Medication Promotion Drawbacks
Before using carefully selected medicinal information to try to treat yourself, consider the true intentions behind DTC drug advertising.
Be wary of drug ads’ supposed educational value
Pharmaceutical companies devote big bucks for their advertising to reach consumers. Their spending increased by 20 percent every year from 1997 to 2005 to exceed $4.2 billion. Some drug manufacturers contend that their ads provide educational value, yet their main purpose is more basic than that. Like all suppliers, their goal is selling their products. But little evidence shows that these ads are effective at educating patients, notes Chan.
Drug information may be misleading.
A 2013 survey found that 63 percent of doctors believed DTC drug advertising misinformed patients while 74 percent thought overemphasizing medication benefits misguided patients. According to a 2013 study, 60 percent of 2008-2010 DTC drug claims omitted key details, exaggerated information, included opinions, or presented meaningless lifestyle associations. The researchers determined that 43 percent of claims were true objectively, 55 percent were misleading theoretically, and 2 percent were incorrect.
Ads may give false impressions that new drugs are better than well-established ones.
New medicines aren’t necessarily improvements. They might be less effective than older drugs, could create additional side effects, and may cost more.
Promotions may lead you to believe that brand-name medications are better than their generic counterparts.
Both drug types contain identical active ingredients, so they provide the same therapeutic effects. Occasionally, some patients may have better results using one over another due to how their bodies react to the additional inactive ingredients, which can vary.
Some DTC drug advertising medicalizes and disparages everyday conditions and functions.
Ads make consumers believe that natural attributes like thin eyelashes and normal signs of aging like wrinkles are instead medical problems that require prescription remedies. By implying that ordinary occurrences are bad, they stigmatize common conditions.
Numerous ads promote medications to treat lifestyle conditions instead of diseases.
They focus on problems like erectile dysfunction, hair loss, and other adverse effects of growing older. But most promotions overemphasize drug benefits while understating their potential risks. About 84 percent of the regulatory letters that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) sent to drug companies between 1997 and 2006 censured advertising that embellished drug effectiveness and/or minimized risks.
Patients pressure health care professionals to prescribe specific advertised drugs that might not be in their best interests
A survey found that 94 percent of oncology nurse practitioners had patients request advertised drugs, 74 percent experienced patients asking for inappropriate medications, and 43 percent felt patient pressure to write prescriptions for those unsuitable drugs. Doctors honored more than half of all patient requests for advertised prescriptions. When advertising to a mass audience replaces one-on-one professional health care advice, Kurt Stange, Ph.D., believes that less relevant prescribing results.
Medication promotions undermine doctor/patient relationships.
About 80 percent of surveyed physicians thought that drug advertising weakened their relationships with patients. Nearly half of patients noted disappointment in providers who denied requested drugs. Some 25 percent would attempt to sway doctors to prescribe advertised medications or obtain them elsewhere, and 15 percent would switch physicians.
When ads convince people that medicines will solve their health problems, patients mistrust their doctors’ advice that other options are better for them. Many doctors reported wasting time explaining the inappropriateness of specific drugs rather than discussing the most effective treatments.
Positive and Negative Combination
Drug announcements can foster patient awareness of certain medical conditions. For example, ads for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine informed the public that this virus can lead to cervical cancer in females. The downside is that those types of ads don’t represent conditions completely and without bias usually. For instance, they won’t address preventative methods unless they involve medications.
Welcome This Benefit
Commercials and ads can inspire patients to initiate conversations with their doctors. If drug advertising provides an advantage, it is that most messages recommend consulting your doctor to discover if the mediation can help you. That discussion is a great opportunity to increase your understanding of a specific health condition and its available treatments. But if you’re tempted to request your physician to write a prescription for a publicized medication, asking questions about it is a better tactic. Chan recommends keeping your mind open. Your doctor will take your medical history, coexisting conditions, and any other current treatments into account to recommend the best drug for you individually, and that might not be the advertised one.