Turn the Volume Down on Drug Ads

Consumers should be skeptical of prescription drug advertisements.

Comments: 203

  1. When I hear these ads, they scare me away from the drugs. Listen to the rapid fire list of problems at the end of each ad. Some of them say, "this could kill you." They are a list of horrors.

    Others have commented to me about that too. It isn't just me.

    I suppose the ads must work, or they would not put the money into them. But I don't understand how they work. They certainly don't work on me.

  2. Yes, have they studied the OPPOSITE of the ads inflating demand? I am entirely turned OFF when I hear the list of side effects...

  3. While I agree with some of this particularly one-sided discussion today, I should point out that the listing of side effects is required by law. Also consider that some of the profits go to ceo pockets, but some go into developing expensive drugs that have the potential to cure diseases like hepatitis c, HIV, and cancer. And if you don't like the ads, enjoy learning about fantasy sports betting on another channel.

  4. They work by jettisoning drug-company income. It's like Hollywood accounting--lowers their already tiny income taxes, and reduces the money they spend on any actual drug research as a "nice" side effect.

    I'm for single-payer healthcare, and single-government drug development and distribution, while we're at it. Don't just ban these wasteful, wrongful ads for 2 years--2000 years would only be a start. Ban the companies too, and let the state manage that.

  5. its always better to get your medical advice from tv adverts than your doctor

  6. thx1138: of course I always get my medical advice from someone who says, "I'm not a doctor, I'm just paid to act like one." Remember, once upon a time, "9 out of 10 doctors smoke Camels" or somesuch nonsense was considered the norm when advertising to consumers. Now it's "talk to your doctor" about how you can increase our corporate profits.
    Big Pharma = Big Tobacco, just another wolf in sheep's clothing.

  7. "In 1962, a law was passed that barred the F.D.A. from requiring prior approval for the content of drug ads."

    Now who would propose and support such a law? And why?

    Only in America* which has the best government money can buy.

    And perhaps New Zealand in this case.

  8. Just one more example of "American exceptionalism".

  9. I completely agree with the board on this. Every commercial first gives an endless litany of potential side effects which makes you wonder if taking the drug is really worth it. Then many of them will have a paid actor tell you after all that the drug is right for you. Color me a skeptic. I find it hard to believe that drug companies can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on developing a drug and with clinical trials and they still have all those side effects? 2 years ago I had a severe reaction from a pain medication for my shoulder and elbow surgery Once was enough

    But I think I have a solution. The drug information channel. It can run these commercials 24/7 and anyone who can't get enough of the sexxual dysfunction commercial and hear the announcer say......"when the time is right" can tune in and wonder if indeed, the time is right The drug companies win and I can watch without wondering what the heck might happen the next time I fill a prescroiption

  10. " if you have an erection that lasts more than four hours" OMG one can only hope. The drug lobby will never allow Congress to pass legislation barring drug ads, unfortunately

  11. I love your first comment. That was epic Thank you for making my day.

  12. I think these are ads are the most glaring example of a health care system financed by private commercialized interests. Of course, these ads reinforce the perverse idea that pills are the path to good health and miss the psychological, social, spiritual and motivation determinants of good health. It is one more reason I support a single payer health care system.

  13. No mention of the obnoxious hundred MPH recitation of a drug's side effects which are longer than the ad itself?

    The ads should be banned.

  14. Just imagine if the recitation of the side effects were read not 100 mph, but in normal speed--would be even more intolerable.

  15. That repetition of side effect information is an FDA requirement.

  16. I love to hear the side effects recitation. It should come first.

  17. The EU countries don’t allow direct to consumer drug ads on their media. Why not? Don’t they want their citizens to be 'informed and educated' health consumers?

    They believe drugs should be a matter between doctor and patient. They accept some regulation on corporate profit seeking, which here is equated with big govt intrusion. One result is their children aren’t 'informed and educated about drugs for erections with repeated TV commercials in their homes day and night.

    In the US, commercial ‘free speech’ rights are deemed the highest good, just as our billionaire financed elections are sold to us as protecting free political speech. The distortions for profit are blatant.

    Corporate donations, a euphemism for bribery to lawmakers, are what keeps the US one of 2 countries plagued with drug advertising. The countries which ban these ads also have mostly public financing of elections, with strict limits on private donations. Why? Don’t they believe in ‘free speech’ like our Supreme Court?

    In the past the US was free of these ads, and had stricter limits on private money dominating our politics. But that was before our govt regulation agencies were underfunded, and before our revolving door from congress to corporations became so common. And before our drug costs skyrocketed higher than any other nation, partly caused by huge marketing budgets. It all works together.

  18. Correct on all but one statement. Drug prices for the same products, marketed by the same companies, are not lower in Europe, Canada and Australia because of less advertising there. It is because prices of drugs to be covered by nationally regulated health insurance there are negotiated. No one sells them unless they receive a fair price. I say that from the experience of having been involved directly in negotiations with the health minister of one of those countries. He tried to badger us into selling at a price below what had been negotiated as a fair price elsewhere. We then asked that our application for inclusion be dropped in his country, and he could explain to the public why a drug appreciated elsewhere was not available to in his country. He backed down.

  19. Thank you Donald Surr for your informative post based on actual experience. Of course, govts negotiating drug prices is the main difference between the US and other countries with long established h/c for all at lower cost. ACA couldn't have passed with regulation.

    Still, it's often pointed out that US drug ad/marketing budgets are huge, and that's not true of companies abroad if they ban ads. So that must have some effect.
    Thus we need articles on how the profits of drug companies abroad differ from those in the US. How much lower are those profits?
    Here, the extensive drug lobbies to congress also add in costs. And evidently abroad, their conservative political parties are not getting paid with huge donations to pass laws increasing drug profits, to the disadvantage of citizens needing those drugs.
    These are the contrasts we need explained, to see our system in reality and challenge lawmakers for change.

  20. Don't expect things to change any time soon.

    Drug companies will continue to produce ads for TV as long as people believe a pill can cure any ailment that befalls them because of genetics, aging, bad lifestyle choices, sheer bad luck or any combination thereof. Networks will show them because they need the revenue. The FDA will do nothing because they fear the courts.

    Just read a book instead of watching TV.

  21. Once again government permitted the floodgates to be bulldozed by the commercial profit interests of big business, as with cell phones and driving.

    I made a conscious decision early on to avoid over the counter remedies based on ads which seemed unveiled in their insult to intelligence. So having tuned them out categorically, I was gob smacked when I realized that prescription drugs were being advertised direct to consumers.

    We question why healthcare costs are so comparatively astronomical in this country, and it is because a market has been created and will evermore be tweaked and pushed for those incremental increases multiplied to the bottom line of profiteering entities. Healthcare, is only incidental to that equation.

  22. Consumers can complain to the Office of Drug Promotion if they are irritated.
    Over $2.4 billion was spent in 1012 and major companies like Lilly, Abbott, and
    Pfizer bought time. Drugs like Cialis, Chantix, Lipitor. and Humara filled the
    TV channels. Boring yes, but the prices to the consumer are never
    mentioned. Big Pharma=Wall Street.

  23. I don't turn the volume down on drug ads. I turn it off.

  24. We quit watching commercial TV because of these ads. In our house it's PBS or Turner Classic Movies. Allowing these ads has helped ruin TV.

  25. The AMA is right. As prescription drugs are only ever meant to be prescribed by a doctor based on clinical need, there's no reason at all for them to be advertised to consumers. All it does is jack up prices and create artificial demand.

  26. As a 30 year (long retired) veteran of the industry -- and a former marketing executive -- I can remember the day when direct advertising to consumers of Rx drugs (here and abroad) was taboo in the industry. We even refrained from mass media ads to the public for some OTC products. My work involved marketing of Rx products globally, including some products sold in Europe, but not yet FDA approved for sale in the US. I was expected not to discuss those products even with physician friends in this country until those drugs had been cleared for promotion here.

    I preferred it that way. It seemed appropriate. I realize that lay people cannot be prevented from reading that promotional material in medical journals (in libraries) or online. Nevertheless blatant and unsought promotion is not necessary.

    Nevertheless, speaking from first hand knowledge, and not biased hearsay, I do maintain that marketing and promotion of new drugs is necessary and that those involved are not the evil schemers that anti-business zealots like to imagine. New ideas have to be sold regardless of the subject matter. Otherwise nothing new happens.

  27. ... and makes the evening news unwatchable with all the sex drug ads geared to narcissistic boomers.

  28. Many of the prescription drugs we pay through the nose for can be bought over the counter in Mexico, at well less than half the price. An example- Voltarin, US 100g $53, Mexico $13. I guess they have either a more educated and informed patient base or less effective lobbyists.

  29. Being such a moron as to enlist in the Army November 1968 means all my drugs come from the VA.
    The VA negotiates the price they will pay.
    VA doctors are ineligible for drug company payoffs, therefore they have zero incentive to line the pockets of Big Pharma.
    Trade my government run healthcare for the Russian roulette of for profit medicine?
    Never.

  30. The poor doctor - having to deal with all those patients demanding drugs they see in ads. Bet this happens multiple times a day, right? I know I am always demanding treatments and drugs from my doctor. And being the doctor he just can't explain to me why a drug would not be appropriate and refuse to prescribe it based on his own expertise.

  31. I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my prescriptions.

  32. Pharmaceutical companies spend more on advertising than they do on research. That says it all.

  33. I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my groceries.

    I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my newspaper subscriptions.

    I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my gasoline.

    I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my clothing.

    I resent the fact that the advertising costs are no doubt included in cost of my cell phone.

    Hmmm... I see a trend here.

    We should have a Constitutional Amendment that makes all advertising free.

  34. The problem isn't incremental costs from advertising. The true travesty is lobbying costs are tiny and they yield the best ROI industry has today.

  35. And what’s so bad about inflating “demand for new and more expensive drugs” if we have an effective regulatory framework that assures that the new drugs work as intended? How else would such drugs be developed if not by an assurance that a consumer base will buy them if developed?

    The issues of ads and the effectiveness of the FDA at doing its job are two very different matters. If FDA isn’t doing its job, then they should be reorganized to do it better, but this has no relation to creating demand. And if our Truth in Advertising laws aren’t effective enough, then perhaps they need to be strengthened.

    Not unusually, a pronounced tendency to over-control manifests itself here among elites, based on an assumption that nothing can be done about avoiding potential negative consequences WITHOUT placing some kind of ban on innovation.

  36. How about considering the evidence rather than disdaining "elites" who "over-control"? Other advanced nations have lower pharmaceutical costs and better medical outcomes while not subjecting their citizens to these noxious ads.

  37. Where's any discussion of a ban on innovation. We are discussing a ban on advertising.

  38. Bruce:

    How is your argument not a false equivalence? When you compare the number of new drug patents coming out of Europe and Japan (low) with those coming out of the U.S. (high), it becomes evident that others don't need to spur demand -- they just need to sit back and stow away while the U.S. provides them with a steady supply of new drugs, by whatever means the U.S. employs to do that, including "noxious ads".

    Then, they negotiate lower costs, forcing the drug companies to charge U.S. consumers ridiculously high prices -- after all, SOMEONE needs to pay the bill that secures all those new patents through incentives. This has always seemed to me just as manifestly evident a huge subsidy to the rest of the West that the U.S. provides as our military protection of them from the strongmen, tyrants and buccaneers of the world -- a subsidy that allows them to eviscerate their own militaries and focus their resources on building comprehensive social safety net frameworks they couldn't afford if they needed to protect themselves.

  39. Do we really want to experience this during dinner while watching the news?

    "Daddy, what is erectile dysfunction?"

    "Never mind. Pass the potatoes."

  40. The government should not ban things because you find them unpleasant. If you don't want to experience advertising during dinner, try turning off your television.

  41. If a person (now a company via USSC) were to make your viewing time unpleasant (loud noises, etc.) you would have a right to call the police for disturbing the peace. But advertisers. especially drug manufacturers, can raise the volume (against the law), put soft porn on your television (against many moral standards), and invade your privacy on television that you now pay for.
    I don't know if you remember, but, cable television got it's start by advertising ad free television. In the 1970's were sick and tired of the advertisements. Now it is one drug after another on our televisions. Where is our right to watch what we pay for, not what advertisers pay for?

  42. I don't see the problem with

    "Daddy, what is erectile dysfunction?"

    What you would say to

    "Daddy, what are allergies?"

    In both cases, give the child an honest answer.

  43. As the sometimes awful side effects are being stated, the screen shows people doing fun and happy things which are meant to distract the viewer from what is being said. The drug companies should be required to depict each side effect as it is mentioned. For example, if the drug may cause nausea, the actors should be shown being sick, not dancing.

  44. Those ads are so bad that I don't watch the news very much any more (get it from the internet). Even if you flip channels you can't escape. However, I do amuse myself with the contrast between the visual image of the happy, healthy people (walking on the beach, playing with the grandchildren, getting romantic, etc.) and the narrator who says (as fast as he can) "symptoms may include dry mouth, rashes, uncontrollable twitching, hearing loss, blackouts, memory loss, and death".

  45. Yes, l "love" theses ads...........all end with beautiful people, smiling faces......and rapid incantation of side effects: "....anemia, and death. Ask your doctor."

    These ask-your-Doctor-ads are playing with life and death; and should be banned not regulated. This is a matter of public health safety and not free speech.

    *A Connecticut physician

  46. Apparently the evening network news broadcasts have an aging audience that is a desirable market for drugs. Would they survive without pharma ads?

  47. The death part is so tempting isn't it?

  48. Thank you for becoming a voice on this matter. The ads do not inform and the rapid-fire side-effect disclosures border on hilarious. Is there any better evidence of the the drug companies disregard for the health of the general population in favor of its greed than its advertising these technical medicines through public airways than providing the appropriate information to the appropriate physician?

  49. I had always assumed these ads increased demand. But I recently heard a doctor say that patients rarely just ask about drugs. He said that with large copays and deductibles more people now are asking about cheaper drug alternatives.
    Like banner ads on the internet, I don't believe this advertising works, though it certainly must increase drug prices.

  50. The increase in revenue following the onset of direct to consumer advertising is a wonder to behold. A boon to drug companies and their investors. Not so much for the consumer. More money is spent on advertising than on research to develop new drugs.

    A 2003 study by the Kaiser Foundation found that for approximately every $1 spent on direct to consumer advertising, drug companies received a $4 increase in sales. That was a conservative estimate.

  51. Your poll of one doctor hardly qualifies as valid. I do get these requests all of the time as do most of my colleagues.

  52. I had an elderly cousin who made a list of ALL medications she saw on TV so that she could ask her doctor if they were right for her. She died.

  53. Prescription drug advertising is allowed because the list of potential side effects that close each ad are arguably enough of a public warning. Since the drugs that are advertised on television aren't addictive, and since they require a doctor's prescription to purchase, the argument against them is weak. Do the ads really create an artificial demand? If so, where is the proof? The editorial provides none. There is no proof either that advertising drives up the prices. Most drugs aren't advertised, yet many of them have high prices. Prices come down when the manufacturers lose their monopolies and the drugs go generic, and this has nothing to do with advertising or the lack of it.

  54. And who do you think ultimately pays the billions spent each year on drug advertising? The executives of the drug companies? The shareholders? Or the purchasers of the drugs?

  55. This is erroneous in many ways. Drugs going generic is not always a way of dropping drug prices when companies like Valeant buy up a drug that is necessary but only produced by one company then push the drug price up 1000%. And many of the drugs that are advertised are, in fact, addictive. No proof they drive up prices. So you think drug companies do this as public service messages. The drug ads often create demand for diseases that are marginal or almost entirely created out of whole cloth. Be on the other end some time when the patient brings you a list of drugs that they saw on TV and think this is right for them or your child. It is a waste of a medical appointment because they're not good for anything.

  56. Viagra adds are now nothing less than soft porn.

  57. I never understood the concept of commercials for medication other than over-the-counter. If a medication is so potent and specialized that it needs to be prescribed by a trained medical professional, let the conversation about how to treat the ailment concerned take place with a doctor, not the TV.
    Network TV has become such trash, that I have plenty of reasons not to watch it anyway. I have no interest in watching commercials interspersed with movie or series parts, or reality shows for that matter. Drug ads only made the experience more unbearable.

  58. Drug ads are symptomatic of our entire health care system, one which has been created with maximum profits for all involved, nothing will change until a single payer system is adopted, that will never happen until we cut the head off the snake, Wall Street, special interests and their lobbyists that control the electoral process and everything else. I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a friend who just returned from Israel where their health care system, loosely modeled on the European system, is paid for with a mandatory, no exceptions, five percent tax on every individuals income: sort of a take on the "from each according to their means to each according to their needs" maxim, seems to be working well and considering the horrific costs and sometimes bankrupting costs of health care in America a real bargain. Bernie are you up for it?

  59. Bernie supports HR676 a simple 70 page bill that gives an improved Medicare to every man, woman and child in America. Since we already have Medicare, and it works and is loved by the people it covers, why not just expand it? After all, it already covers the costliest age group.

  60. Oh god yes, please. I'm so tired of these ads. Can't we ban them somehow?

  61. The list of potential side effects these drugs may cause makes we wonder how marijuana is still illegal. Oh, I know, being able to grow it yourself doesn't allow for pharmaceutical companies to make billions off it and pay off the politicians.

  62. Physicians cannot escape culpability in the juggernaut of pharmaceutical commercials. They are all too often amenable to acting on the suggestions of patients who see a commercial and then tell their doctor to give them a prescription. The other vexing problem I see so often is pharma reps invading doctors' offices during business hours to hawk their products, curtailing valuable doctor-to-patient time. I guess that blood sugar issues in people have reached epidemic proportions because it seems there is no limit to the number of commercials promoting drugs to treat diabetes. The solution: turn off your set and pick up a good book!

  63. Yes, I agree but the real "sin" is not volunteering, somehow, the information on natural remedies for sickness which have mostly no side effects. Half million people die a year on physician prescribed drugs. But if one herb caused a headache in someone drug companies want that to be front page news! In Europe, you need a prescription for herbal medicine. That is very telling as to their efficacy.

  64. "In Europe, you need a prescription for herbal medicine. That is very telling as to their efficacy."

    It is also very telling as their potential for harm. The word "natural" does not and should not be taken to mean "harmless". Digitalis, for example, comes from the beautiful flower commonly called foxglove and wolfsbane (used to kill wolves which should be a clue to its toxicity) is commonly known as yellow monkshood.

  65. Drug ads create unnecessary medical expense at a time when virtually everyone except profit driven drug companies and amoral physicians is trying to reduce costs. Furthermore, drug ads drive away TV viewers with their graphic messages. It's surprising they are allowed at all, and even more surprising they have survived this long. Seems clear the regulators are not doing their jobs. Perhaps too many speaking fees, opaque consulting gigs, or future job opportunities at risk?

  66. The regulators are doing their job its just that many of them are ex industry employees or soon to be industry employees. The revolving door of cronyism spins so fast we can`t keep up. Many of these cronies start as paid consultants for industries establishing "unbiased" information to be sent to the regulators as helpful guidance. These " unbiased " consultants then get put on regulatory boards to implement this "helpful" guidance. I see this going on in Iowa on many levels.

  67. As with many other ads, drug ads often come with fine print which is both unreadable (even close to the set) and gone in too short a time for even this relatively fast reader to get through the dense paragraph. As in so much, the word must be 'buyer beware.'

    As to patients pushing for inappropriate drugs, doctors must develop a bit more spine and simply refuse to prescribe that which is not necessary. I suspect that the nature of medical visits plays a role here. Docs have little time to spend with each patient, so even though it may not be "best practice," prescribing a med may be the path of least resistance when the patient is insisting and the clock is ticking.

    What is definitely not helped is overall healthcare costs if patients are insisting on a particular e.g., statin, simply because they heard of it on TV. Again, time and disinclination to argue may mean that docs don' take the time to explain that the generic is just as effective. That is where good co-pays and well balanced formularies can come into play to help encourage patients to hold costs down.

  68. Visiting the US I accidentally had the TV on and saw ads for two different drugs to help control type 2 diabetes; sandwiched between them was an ad for a very sugary product that might help induce type 2 diabetes. Ailment and cure all in one burst. Excellent plan. Wonderful TV. Very entertaining. Only in America. What a disgrace. Here we have health care rather than drug ads.

  69. An anecdote:

    I was living in London when a friend of my girl friend showed up one Sunday night with a high fever. We rushed him to the local hospital. The ER was dark and dinghy and empty. There was a widow with a woman behind it. We were sent to an examining room and in a minute a doctor showed up. He treated my friend and handed us two prescriptions. He said the pharmacy was around the corner.

    I handed the pharmacist the scripts and in five minutes had the drugs, I then asked, "Where do we pay?"

    "Pay?" she said, "There's no money in this hospital."

    "You don't understand, " I said. "We are not British citizens. We are just guests."

    "No, YOU do do not understand, This is England. This is a hospital.. We treat sick people. We treat all sick people, Brits, Frenchmen, Chinese, even Americans. And that's all we do. We just treat sick people."

  70. Steve, what I find amusing is to see an ad for something like an alternative blood thinner, and then 20 minutes later see an ad for a law firm telling you that if you or a family member have been injured by that drug you are entitled to compensation through a lawsuit.

  71. Here in America we call that Free Enterprise. You have to have sick people to make a profit so the first goal is to make more people sick. In countries with single payer type health care the core of the care is preventative medicine. Here in America we Bulimic Medicine, binge barf binge barf. Someday they will come up with a pill to cure that.

  72. The onslaught of prescription drug commercials has become intolerable but there is some humor here: A station airs a commercial for a prescription drug, and immediately following that commercial, a law firm runs a commercial warning that if you were injured by that same drug, call this number! Here's a solution: Put big pharma and big law firms in a steel cage and let them fight it out. But please don't televise it!

  73. What I have seen on TV is simply disgusting. American consumers are prompted to look at ads for products they wil never need. For example, drugs against ADD - in a recent stay in Vietnam, I was surprised to see that they did not even think that this "disorder" existed and therefore did not sell the medications.

  74. >

    Not going to happen. Big Pharma bought and paid for our gov't, and by God they're going to get their return.

    The entire point of pharama drug ads is to convince people they need something they probably don't need.

    I'm just amazed they force the drug ads to delineate the negative effects of these drugs in these ads.

  75. Actually, they have no choice. If they didn't, and really bad side-effects occur, they would be open to all sorts of law-suits.

  76. I have been saying for years that a large part of our problem with high health care costs is all of the non-value-added things we pay for under the guise of "health care." This includes not only unnecessary drug advertising, but obscene insurance company profits and the associated bureaucracy, lawyers fees, etc. Our health care dollars should be going to necessary drugs, doctors, nurses and hospitals.

  77. A recent, well-publicized study by Case and Deaton showed a rising death rate among middle-aged US whites, beginning around the late 1990s, mostly due to abuse of opiates and alcohol. One has to ask whether the incessant ads telling Americans that all of their ills can be addressed by the right pill played a role in this, since direct-to-consumer ads began at that time.

  78. You are on the right track. Yes, indeed, the pharmaceutical companies pushed their long lasting opiate to doctors as an alternative to the shorter acting existing ones. Doctors thought it was safer. What happened was an explosion in heroin addiction as people who had been on the "new and improved" versions that were prescribed for them for pain control following surgery or accidents and ended up addicted to them.

    From Big Pharma's perspective, what could be a more perfect drug? Big Pharma is the biggest pusher on the block.

  79. Well, let's think this through. My concern about banning ads is the lives of corporations. Since we now know they are people, albeit, with disabilities such as deafness, blindness, essentially quadriplegic , etc., they rely on other people to maintain their health. If the ads are banned , how in the world will these corporations be able to make informed decisions about their health? It keeps me up at night. Oh, wait! There's a pill for that!

  80. Cute.

  81. A few years ago I listened to an NPR interview with the guy who pioneered direct-to-consumer ads. I believe it may have been Celebrex - at any rate, he described the process he went through to obtain permission and try out his concept. And then he described the results: skyrocketing sales. He spoke of these sales increases the same way one might speak of winning the lottery - jubilation.

    It is patently offensive to describe direct-to-consumer drug ads as having anything to do with educating consumers or any other beneficial result. It's about one thing, and one thing only: increasing sales & profits for drug companies.

    I had no idea how severely drug companies are ripping off US consumers until I lived overseas. In Cairo, I paid about $40 for a month's supply of brand-name Celebrex. In the US, it was 8 - 10 times that much for the generic version. Since insurance companies typically foot the bill, no one notices or cares too much. But then when premiums & deductibles go up, we all blame Obamacare.

    Want to do some interesting research? Find out just how much money the big drug companies spend lobbying Congress every week. And remind yourself that you & I are paying for that - in addition to the advertising, the executive bonuses & perks, the extravagant profits, etc.

    It's legalized extortion, and it's a major travesty.

  82. I used to analyze medical claims data, including prescription drug claims, to look for patterns of use/abuse.

    I remember that a drug that was being pushed on television for acid reflux shot up to the top 10 list for a couple of years. I am not sure it was because lots of patients all of a sudden came up with acid reflux, but most likely because they "thought" they had acid reflux symptoms based on listening to the commerical about the drug.

    Of course, there is a cost associated with dispensing all these drugs that are being pushed. That's one of the reason the US healthcare system is one of the most expensive in the world.

  83. The acid reflux drug to which you probably refer is Prilosec and its follow-up, Nexium. As the patent on Prilosec approached expiration and it was being approved for OTC sales, the push went out to mark the brand in consumer's minds. They needed, for sales figures, the public to know that Nexium was the 'new' prescription drug for ARD and that Prilosec was the standard of care (so that, when perusing the aisle looking for an acid reducer, that name would stand out against that of newer generics,) It worked - there are few generic versions on my drug store's shelfs but it didn't work as well for Nexium since its advantages over Prilosec, with which doctors had some familiarity, wasn't clear. Losing my teeth to Gastro-esophegeal refulx disorder (GERD), I am grateful that Prilosec exists. It is not a one time course - the problem comes back after a time - but it does work a treat.

    That said, I find too many things rushed to sale. There is some new sleep aide being advertised that works on a recently discovered neurotransmitter. We don't know the life cycle of the nt, we don't know with what others it may interact and just how it does so over time nor what other impacts are from manipulating it. Given the side-effects of the previous two classes of prescription sleep aides (such as sleep driving/ eating/ sex or aggression,) I would prefer the ads wait until the drug had been on the market awhile and some history had been accrued.

  84. It was Nexium, Pat.

    I am not in anyway discounting the GERD problem and I am glad drugs like that are helping people, such as yourself, with GERD.

    My point was that it rocketing up to top 10 (#1, actually) did not make any sense.

  85. At long last the Docs are finally trying to do something about the outrage of drug advertising which is becoming more egregious all of the time, and thank you NYT for publicizing the effort. I am sick and tired of "American exceptionalism" and so-called consitutional arguments, with only the US an New Zealand allowing drug advertising, being the cause of not only this, but lack of universal health insurance, and so many other outrages that the consitutition was never written to cover. Maybe the American Medical Association can lobby Congress to create a law to deal with this before the drug companies buy them off. Oops! Maybe that's already happened.

  86. "Ask your doctor if_________ is right for you" After hearing all the side effects possible, including death, I'm pretty sure most of these drugs would not even come up in a conversation with my doctor. America needs to realize there isn't a silver bullet for every malady they might have.

  87. I don't know. Have you ever seen the side effects of aspirin? This include:
    black, bloody, or tarry stools;
    coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds;
    severe nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain;
    fever lasting longer than 3 days;
    swelling, or pain lasting longer than 10 days; or
    hearing problems, ringing in your ears.

  88. What eludes me is how many of these drugs address diseases that affect an extremely small subset of the population, yet they blanket the airwaves. The only conclusion is that the markup must be so criminally exorbitant it's worth the expense.

  89. I have the same question. Danny Glover is featured in an ad for a condition that causes patients to spontaneously burst into laughter or weeping. Apparently this is a real condition, but it's mostly among those with brain injuries or strokes. But now, the number of people who think they have this condition has increased 25%, and at $750 per month for the drug, each new diagnosis is a goldmine for the pharmaceutical company.

    This really isn't how a healthcare system should work.

  90. I have always wondered why do we let prescription medication be advertised. I always thought it should work the other way, you go to the doctor he finds out what is wrong with you and prescribes the medication (if any) that is needed.

  91. These ads are symptomatic of our entire health care system. When companies and people are getting rich from people's health problems, something has to change.

  92. Thank you for this observation of the corruption and contempt the health system as well as capitalism in general have towards the American people. Life is more than money and Viagra.

  93. and its the same in the prison and court system!

  94. Leeches and bloodletters all. Next pocketbook er patient please.

  95. Drug companies are violating the public trust, in what they advocate and in what they charge for needed medications. Congress and the FDA need to intervene to allow Americans to obtain necessary medications at a fair price.

  96. Never look to any legislative body controlled by the GOP to rein-in anything to do with major corporations. They are owned outright by those same corporations. Lock, stock and barrel as it were. Like Dorian Gray, they sold their souls long ago.

  97. This is a prime example of the disgusting greed that is corporate America, stop pretending that these companies are anything other than pure evil.

  98. They're "pure evil," on the one hand, but on the other hand observe that this is the normal workings of capitalist America.

  99. I've been coming to the United States every year since 2009. Cannot stop being put on the back foot with these drug commercials. We don't have them in Australia. It is black comedy at it's best. The upside so enthusiastic, so uplifting and so deliberate; (you can have a quick "naughty" with your wife or lover); the downside so quick and so low key;(you could have increased risk of stroke, blood pressure, palpitations); but "ask your doctor". This final statement suggests the drug companies absolve themselves from the effects of their marketing.
    They don't seem to care about the health and well being of those who fall for their deception. That is the real real concern where profit is placed higher on the scale than health and lifestyle well being.

  100. My favorite was the guy throwing the football in slow motion through the tire swing. Oh baby! You can guess what they were selling. That must have been a fun shoot for the production team.

  101. Our government doesn't actually like us; it expects us to be rubes and suckers - and shrugs. It actually likes and fawns over anyone, including any business, with the bucks to buy them outright.

  102. Instead of a complete ban on the direct-to-consumer drug adds, professor David Vladeck's suggestion of a two year ban following the drug approval and marketing appears more reasonable both in terms of constitutional requirement as well as monitoring the adverse effects of the drugs.

  103. I recently visited my doctor and requested a sleep aid that I had seen in an advertisement. He had never heard of it, and pulled out a dog eared, four year old physicians guide, which not surprisingly, didn't have any mention of the more recent therapy. He then said that he's look into it.
    On my next visit, he hadn't followed up, so I asked him again. He then reviewed the drug on his computer, and agreed, that it might make sense for the condition I described.
    The drug works quite well, both my doctor and I are satisfied with the result.
    How would I have ever acquired this beneficial therapy if these ads were banned? Shouldn't consumers have healthy skepticism about ALL ads?
    Less information for consumers is never a good idea.

  104. For example, for insomnia, go to the pubmed website. You can search for "insomnia clinical trial". There you will see the reports of relevant studies, along with the criteria used to define efficacy and the side effects. Or you can go to the FDA website and look for recent approvals. Again you will get data rather than smiling actors.
    Also, you might want to check whether a drug has been tested in combination with other drugs you might already be taking. Most likely, it wasn't.

  105. You may be one of the few people to have benefited from these incessant drug ads. How many times do I need to see an ad for the same drug? I would estimate that I have seen most of these ads more than 30 times each, probably even more.
    All in all, I favor banning the ads. If people want to know about drugs for a given condition they can research it easily on the internet and save the rest of us from the barrage.

  106. No, you should have a doctor who's knowledgeable about drugs currently on the market.

  107. The only benefit I have gained from the drug ads on TV is the alacrity with which I reach for the mute button. I sometimes seriously consider whether or not certain drug companies make up fictitious diseases in order to sell the phony drugs they advertise to treat phony diseases. There are no words to describe the contempt I feel for America's pharaceutical industry, and, for that matter the common habit in the US to treat its citizen's health needs as a business aimed at earning profit rather than a service.

    After the banning of drug ads why not go further and ban ads by lawyers?

  108. Christino, I am a retired lawyer, and I don't know any other lawyer of my generation who doesn't agree with you. The courts have struck down bans on lawyer ads, unfortunately. They make me cringe.

  109. Why not ban for profit health care altogether? It does us no good. We are a nation of germ phobes. Big pharma has, indeed, convinced us that ordinary sniffles and other quotidien discomforts are signs of serious illness from which only another pill can save us. Every part of our body is fair game.

    What is the end result of this "health education" that our physicians cannot trust to treat or discuss with us? We spend twice as much money for half as much benefit.

    I wish I lived in a sane society where common sense dictated that corporations are just businesses, not people, and have no Constitutional rights. Further, I wish that their apparently god-given right to make a profit is not held as the primary value over human well-being.

    Consider, our medical practitioners have gone through four years of training followed by an intense internship but a pharmaceutical company can diagnose our ailments in a 30 second commercial. Really, how foolish is that?

    If I am sick at all, I am sick of corporations sticking their invidious grubby little fingers in to every aspect of life. It cheapens life itself and demeans the dignity of humanity.

  110. Why not ban ads for everything that you don't personally find worthwhile? And I suppose Cristino, that you'd be glad to decide what's best for the rest of us as well?

  111. I will always remember what one of my employees told me years ago while we worked together at a bank. His father was a very senior executive at a large European pharma company. And it being cold a flu season, we were talking about over the counter decongestants and other such remedies. He said don't touch them - his fathers' phrase was "they are good to sell, not good to take."

    In the pharma explosion that has occurred in the years since, I can't help thinking about that phrase. I'm pretty sure it applies to the vast number of prescription pills and potions marketed to us on TV. One easy way to check is to look at soaring pharma companies' stock prices, and their CEO pay.

    Good to sell, indeed.

  112. Without more information as to which company and what it marketed, I can't judge your anecdote. You cay it was 'years ago' and moreover that it involved 'his father'. Which suggests decades. Quite possibly, to borrow a line from Bernard Shaw, there's been a lot found out about potatoes since that old man learnt to dig them, and the ingredients in the OTC decongestants may be different from those to which Polonius was referring.
    Your blanket dismissal is just as wrong-headed as the blanket acceptance of the person who believes every ad on TV and wants a pill for everything. I would suggest the latter attitude is what's really responsible for those soaring stock prices.

  113. While the majority of OTC drugs cannot “cure” a cold....Taking simple decongestants--pseudoephedrine 30 mg 3x/day, or meds that thin secretions such as guaifenesin do help. Acetaminophen 650 mg or ibuprofen 200 mg 3x/day help with muscle aches and headaches.

    I never prescribe Nyquil- (alcohol) or drugs with five different ingredients. The problem is that people CAN’T take off work to do the real things that “cure” colds....that’s sleep, increasing fluids, and “tincture of time” to allow the obdy to heal itself. People with colds should NOT be at work BUT most of us don’t have sick days...in a good world with safety nets, we could actually take sick days 1) to get better and 2) stop the spread of one of the most easily acquired infections--rhinoviruses-- that cause colds.

    I’ll listen to my colleagues and to peer medical journal articles on the best way to treat America’s number two infectious disease. Number one? Head lice...which also needs an OTC drug to eradicate.

    I admit I was flummoxed by a “very senior” (as opposed to “senior?") pharmaceutical exec saying that his drugs were only good for his bottomline NOT for patients? That is such an amoral, unethical way of doing business! If he thinks his meds are nothing but snake oil, why does he keep selling them??

  114. ACW - There's really nothing more to parse in that anecdote. The point is an industry based on an underlying culture of greed. My anecdote also notes that I was working for a bank at the time - Deutsche Bank. I spent many years in banking - another industry rooted in a culture of greed, but presenting itself in a benevolent veneer. Growing economies. Creating jobs, etc.... And we are still reeling in the aftermath of their uncontrolled foray into derivatives based on bad housing bets.

    We know from that outcome where greed leads us. Yes, that executive was very senior - the president of a division - which is why that statement is so repellent. My strong belief is that mindset still pervades the industry. Just look at the Pfizer- Allergan tax-inversion-driven merger announcement.

    You can't let these people control the airwaves when they want unrestricted sales of their products. Oxycontin for kids, in the middle of a prescription drug epidemic. Talk about locking in the next generation of buyer. Thankfully, they don't yet have a mascot like Joe Camel.

  115. Consider that drug companies spend millions of dollars for these ads on radio, TV and print. All these costs are pass through to the consumer in higher drug prices; the quickest rising component of heath care costs. Only in the US are drug companies allowed to advertise. In most western countries, the government regulates the cost of drugs; except in the US. A give back by the Obama administration with the so called "Affordable Care Act". He kept this practice from from previous administration.

    The ads, themselves, are annoying. Some ads, have no business running before 9 PM. They run at all hours of the day or night. Children are exposed to ads they should not, A recent Viagra, by now Ireland based Pfizer, could actually make woman vulnerable; it encourages intimate activity.

    I was at a conference last year and talking with a gentlemen from Australia. He commented on the large number of drug ads which run here. Such ads are illegal there, and the cost of drugs are much lower.

    The AMA, pushing for a ban on these ads, is a good start. But, AMA members have benefited fro years by getting "incentives" from drug companies and originally help pushed for these ads. Now, patients are telling doctors they want a drug, because they saw it on TV. The chickens have come home to roost.

    Drug companies will cry "free speech", but this is costing consumers, and the government, billions of dollars each year. It is high time these ads cease.

  116. This editorial fails in 2 areas. First it fails to mention the other parts of drug company marketing besides the ads. Second it fails to consider the cost of all this marketing on drug prices.

    Prof Alan Sager of BU has studied drug companies. He has found that they spend about 11% of their budget on R & D, 19% on profit (about twice the average of all industries) and 34% on "Marketing". This includes not only the odious TV and magazine ads, but the thousands of unqualified "pushers" who visit physicians' offices to get them to use various drugs and the many payments to doctors such as fake educational conferences at fancy resorts and stipends to give talks to other doctors based on faulty information supplied by the drug company. The purpose of all this "marketing" is to get us to use drugs we do not need or to use expensive new drugs even when cheaper older drugs are as effective or even more effective. It is clear that we could cut drug prices by at least a third and not impact research at all.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/25/magazine/25memoir-t.html?pagewanted=all

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/04/the-drug-pushers/4714/

  117. Just another example of the Corporate Canceriziation of medicine--advertising to consumers for bigger PROFITS. Big Pharma spends a considerable amount of money on advertising, including TV ads, medical journal ads, consumer magazine and newspaper ads, billboards, as well as sponsoring conferences and lunches for physicians and others in healthcare and providing branded "souvenirs" like note pads, calendars stressballs, etc. It's repugnant and transparent to those of us in the know. There are no magic pills for everything that ails you but there sure is money to be spent, which sucks it out of the system and puts it right into the pockets of CEO's and their investors. And don't get me started about the aftermath, with the bottom dwelling lawyers and THEIR deep pockets, advertising for medical malpractice-perosnal injury lawsuits, once again for $$$.

  118. I think they should be banned entirely. I know that sounds harsh, but I think people are on way too many prescription drugs.

  119. What a marvelous confluence of benefits! By running ads to inform and empower consumers, drug companies can also (they hope) increase revenue. It's a win-win situation.
    But seriously, this piece cites no actual evidence of harm caused by the ads. Sure, the ads probably provide next to zero benefit to consumers. Sure, they're potentially misleading. (But physicians still control access to the drugs.) Yes, many of them are tasteless. (They're television commercials. What do you want?) That said, I don't see any compelling reason for restricting them, as long as they're essentially truthful.

  120. Such direct advertising relegates complex medications down to the level of selling shoes or cheese. If you listen to these ads the adverse effects are whizzed through while you are watching pleasurable images - basic psychology tells you that people will not remember what is being said when distracted by such images.
    Big Pharma leads consumers around by the nose then lies about the need for these ads. Especially nasty is the creation of bogus ailments in the minds of the public - male testosterone or feminine hygiene are glaring examples - which waste valuable clinic time and create unwarranted tensions between physicians who do not cater to these false ailments and patients who have been brainwashed.

  121. On one hand big pharma charges whatever it wants for new drugs with questionable efficacy, and on the other hand they advertise many of these same drugs 24/7/365 on all major media outlets in prime time touting the potential of the same drugs. Why not divert these advertising monies to the research, and lower the costs of the same drugs to the public. I have never asked a doctor about a drug I have seen advertised on TV, and probably never will. I have the same reaction to these ads as I do to furniture sale ads.

  122. Forget turning down the volume. Refuse to use any that aren't absolutely necessary and do not fill "preventative" prescriptions unless the doctor can guarantee that the drug will improve your condition and not do more harm. Most prescription drugs today are like snake oil. The time has come to stop giving patents for prescription drugs and pull those already in effect. WE are paying for the research and development of the drugs through University and NIH research yet a few uber-greedsters are raising the prices to astronomical levels getting wealthier on OUR lives. All prescription drugs should be owned, produced and distributed by OUR government through a Universal Health Care Program and must be seriously regulated and cost-controlled.

  123. The drug ads are disgusting. I am so offended by them, I cannot help but put in my own comment, which echoes others already written. I have turned off the TV to save my mental health.
    They need to be banned. Big pharma is out of control as are many other corporations these days. I get a sense there are "mad scientists" cooking up a new batch a day. No one in their right mind would want to give most, if any a try, the side effects are so dire. And the names - the creative forces are working overtime to come up with yet another tricky name to spring on the public. A pox on them all!

  124. Canada bans direct advertising of prescription drugs and Canadian TV stations go elsewhere for revenue. However, since we also receive US broadcasts via cable and satellite with their overload of prescription ads, we have all the negative effects. If you manage to get the FDA to control them, it will also help us. Please.

  125. Don't hold your breath.

  126. One of the really offensive things about these ads is should you or someone close to you have diabetes or cancer of irritable bowl syndrome, etc. and you have escaped into a baseball game or episode of "Housewives of Bayonne" you get smacked back into your fear about the particular malady as soon as the commercial comes on. Why not just have a warning that says "Don't have too much fun, you will die someday." flash subliminally every five seconds to keep viewers anxious?

  127. These ads are outright bribes to the media to ignore the rampant venality and corruption in the US health care finance system.

  128. What is truly the most fascinating aspect of these ubiquitous commercials is the long list of possible side effects. The risks often outweigh the benefits. Do I live with my Psoriasis or risk Lymphoma from the medication? Hmmm, I'll live the Psoriasis, thank you.

  129. It amazes me that people might be willing to accept really horrific side effects to get rid of something that's really only cosmetic. I have no idea why it would be a problem to simply prohibit pharmaceutical advertising to the public. It certainly doesn't seem to be in the public's interest, only the "interests" of the drug companies, their advertising companies, and their politicians.

  130. Simple solution, maybe?

    Forbid drug companies from passing the cost of consumer advertising on to the consumer. They want to advertise directly to people who would be prescribed the drug, they have to take that cost out of their profits.

  131. Constant greed gardeners. Drug companies are as evil as banks and most politicians. Profit above lives, is this not the American way today. The world has become a joke and moved far from reality.

  132. I find the constant barrage embarrassing. I encourage my children to watch the morning and evening news and we are barraged with these ads. Then they want an explanation, then they ask about the increased risk of stroke, hair loss, etc. I AM SICK OF THEM. I now always turn to another channel.

  133. Best idea in a long time....

  134. I cannot ignore the fact we are one of the only two nations that allow such ads, but also built into our law drug pricing cannot be negotiated for our single largest purchaser, Medicare and Medicaid. Add to that most other countries pay a lower price for drugs than we do and have one payer access that pays for medical healthcare directly without going through the middleman of an insurer, to get the medications they need. They don't need advertisements.

    This all points out the absurdity of our insurance driven access system of a fee based healthcare delivery system that is all about selling health services rather than health.

    Ban the ads. If the rational argument doesn't convince, then how about no longer finding yourself eating when bombarded by a long list of downright unappetizing, revolting side effects you'd get your ears boxed for mentioning at the dinner table or in all but the most rude social situations.

    For that alone, ban the ads.

  135. Absolutely agree concerning the disgusting issue of no negotiating drug prices, Blue. I needed a back up to a prescription while in Spain and it was 1/4 the cost of here at home. And the tv ads are too frequent and laughable.

  136. There shouldn't be any drug ads. Period. If your doctor doesn't know more than you do about the treatment for your illness, get a new doctor.

  137. Although the side effect of death may not be the ideal outcome from a prescription medication, you have to admit it would eliminate the underlying condition completely.

  138. Given pharmas' "difficulty" with rising rates of placebo responses in drug trials leaving their anticipated "blockbusters" failing to show a significant improvement and therefore FDA approval, it may be that pharmas withdraw DCT adverts as they are suspected as being the leading cause of the increased placebo responses. Delicious irony for once.

  139. These ads tell you that you now have an ailment that you never knew you had, such as a monthly period.

  140. In the pre-internet era, drug advertising on TV had a legitimate informational function. Since the internet, that is no longer true.

    Unfortunately, anyone who researches a common drug on the internet is likely to conclude that USA websites report inflated claims of safety, and minimize the incidence of adverse events. The European websites often seem to tell a different story.

    To the extent that TV advertising may misinform, and may discourage consumer research, it no longer has a valid social mission.

    American TV advertising of drugs is no longer necessary for consumer awareness. It also

  141. I resent these ads every time I see one. With drug costs going up every day, this is how our money is being spent by the drug companies. This is an example of capitalism run amuck.

  142. If you have to "ask your Doctor" or "tell your Doctor" anything other than symptoms you need another Doctor. Those hilarious side effects being read off while the couple are gazing into the sunset amorously are the only interesting parts of those ads. Trouble is, they must be effective or they wouldn't be there.

  143. If people listened carefully to the sotto voce warnings in the drug ads -- "may cause internal bleeding, suicidal ideation, blindness, bone loss, muscle tremors . . . " -- they would be more than sceptical of these expensive drug "miracles." Let's at least make the warnings stark and easy to understand, without the overlay of romantic couples and bouncing children frolicking in sunny meadows and along breezy seashores.

  144. I actually saw an advertisement on television the other day for treating the side effects of having taken another drug, which was used to treat the actual illness, and even it had a long list of side effects if taken.

    Some of the drugs used in television advertisements are for non-fatal illnesses, but if one listens closely enough to the steady, long stream of harmful side effects that accompanies the drug, the word death is usually the last side effect mentioned.

    There's a pill for everything these days...can't urinate? take this pill...suffer from incontinence? take this pill...inability to perform sexually? take this pill. More times than not, what we are suffering from is nothing more than old age.

    For most of us, the best "pill" to swallow is life. It might not be perfect, but the side effects are less daunting.

  145. What percentage of my health care premium pays for these ads that increase the cost of the medicine that I will never use? We all pay one way or another - with lost time, annoyance, and real money.

  146. As I thought about it, Ferencz, I realized that the cost of prescribed meds may indeed increase your health care insurance premium, because your insurance pays at least part of the cost of the drugs ... and, of course, there's the co-pay.

  147. 1) Evidence-based info. from McMaster, the center of evidence-based medicine in North America for humans: http://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/

    2) Would prefer using the word citizens rather than consumers, especially in this context, but throughout the Times. You lose me when ever consumers is used.

  148. They are an outrage, but after all corporations rule our country. There is no turning back.

  149. It is easy to say corporations rule our country, but unfortunately, people rule our country, and among them stupidity and corruption seems quite prevalent. Businesses, generally within the bounds of the law, try to make money. If they didn't, they would be sued even more by their shareholders for failing to "maximize shareholder value". If politicians and regulators only act in crises and allow questionable business practices, I am not sure the corporations are the ones to blame.

  150. By the time they finish listing all the potential side effects (for example, while taking one of the drugs that helps you welcome "sleep" - you may also drive without rememhering it, or sleep walking, or experience depression, or suicidal thoughts), they've about convinced me the side effects outweigh the possible benefits. I'm likely to argue with my doctor against taking it. I'm on more meds than I like now, but will take the ones absolutely necessary - like for high blood pressure.

    I expect that I'm going to have some aches and pains and other things - it's called living and the price of getting older. And while some of the meds can undoubtedly take away all of the problems, you may barely be able to function or live a normal life on them. Why do you think so many people stop taking them even though they know the possible consequences.

  151. The article comments that any restriction of these ads might be challenged in the courts due to freedom of speech limitations. But what about what is appropriate to be presented on television. I'd like to be able to watch a football game with my kids without being advised of the dangers of four hour erections.

    If ads like these need to be on TV, at least restrict them to a time when kids are not going to be watching.

  152. Four out of five football players prefer four hour...

  153. Drugs are not consumer products and should not be allowed to be marketed to consumers. The right treatment for an ailment should be made in consultation with your physician and should first involve discussions about other options beside pills - like changes in diet, exercise, physical therapy, etc. Pills should not automatically be the first choice in treatments but should only be considered when other options have been exhausted. These ads should be banned for all products that can not be legally sold over the counter.

  154. Until I read this column I thought that the FDA did review ads. The networks do, but they don't have the expertise nor the incentive to scrutinize. No wonder a claim that a cancer drug lets you "significantly" extend life - from 6 months to 9 months - is permitted. Many of the drugs are last resort types of conditions. But they don't tell you that. We know we can't trust big Pharma. Billions of dollars of penalties for illegal off-label promotion is evidence.

  155. the article is misleading. The FDA does review ads, and cites companies for false or misleading statements. Companies are not required to submit ads prior to running them, but that is a risk many choose not to take, as the false and misleading ads must be replaced with corrective ads of similar prominence and placement.

  156. Thanks Cloud Nine. Just a note that not all the conditions are life-threatening. Not to mention the name of the drug, but one more recent ad is for a toe fungus curative. I have a friend whose Medicare does not cover the cost. Actual price: $500.00 for a less than one ounce container. This is toe fungus people...annoying, not pretty...but not life threatening although the drug has risks.

  157. I hope to heck they can come up with some kind of banning if not outright removal of the commercials. It seems like every third commercial is for a drug. Having been disabled for several years from brain surgery, these things drive me bananas. I don't see any rational reason for them. Some are no longer necessary. I mean absolutely no disrespect in any way, shape or form, but I'm fairly certain that most men are aware by now of all drugs available to address ED. Is there truly a need for the never-ending commercials for these drugs? There are other meds with non-stop repeats also. It's tiresome and my mute button is overworked. The ads are there for profit, not assistance. I don't know anyone with medical problems that see these commercials helpful in any kind of way. Annoying is the word that pops up the most. I've talked about this in offices, hospital rooms and with other friends and family members with medical problems. They see no benefit to these. I know, because of free speech, they're not allowed to stop them. But surely there has to be someway, shape or form to limit them.

  158. The Times should do more than take a position on the growing problem of slick drug ads. After years of abuse, drug "detailing" in doctors offices was been dialed down with good reason: these individuals influenced prescribing practices. Do drug ads influence consumer health in positive or negative ways? Would a person with type 2 diabetes be more likely to eat poorly after seeing a flashy ad for an glucose lowering medication? What is the effect of advertising anti depression medication on individuals with depression, for example? Helpful or harmful? Or neither? Certainly there is a paucity of information about drug advertising, their slick ad campaigns and health seeking behaviors. It is well known that cigarette ads have affected health, misleading the public for years. Medication prescribing? It should be a discussion between the health provider and the patient, not the TV screen, drug company, and ad agency.

  159. No worries. We don't pay attention to them anyway.

  160. Everyone is not so smart.

  161. If a creature from outer space watched our TV, it would conclude that we are the sickest beings in the universe. In the half-hour that contains our evening news viewing, we must see at least eight ads for drugs to treat a variety of ailments, some of which we've never heard of. New drug names pop up all the time, too. This is one reason we turn to BBC for most of our news. Another is that we honestly don't believe that if we take the drugs for reduced libido or sexual function, we'll end up holding hands in side-by-side bathtubs.

  162. While marketing drugs directly to patients is clearly a bad idea, the question is an ethical one rather than legal. It is unlikely that a legislative effort to ban the practice would pass a court challenge. Years ago this would not have occurred. Those days are gone.

  163. They were outlawed before August 1997, so there's precedent to outlaw them again.

  164. TV is big money for pharmaceutical companies which are the one of the richest industries. The companies advertise and consumers ask for the drug/s seen on the TV ad and that drives demand. Some physicians are not aware of some of the new medicine that is requested. Interesting.

  165. Having worked for agencies that provided sales materials for big pharma, I well remember the late 90s when the FDA decided to allow TV ads, with their ominous list of 'side effects" as a tradeoff between claims and reality. At the time, I swallowed whole pharma's rationale for "educating" consumers.

    A few years after this genie was let out of the bottle, the backlash from doctors was big news--in an era of managed care and 5-minute appointments they resented patients wasting their time with demands for drugs inappropriate for their conditions.

    Now, with everything from toenail fungus to lung cancer, we're bombarded with ads that promise the moon in the hopes TV viewers will leave the room when the side effects come on. Today I hate the ads, as an intrusion as well as disgusting simplifications of the power of drugs to cure all.

    The problem with TV drug ads is that "ask you doctor" has become "tell your doctor." Frankly, I think the FDA should remove them: they're a costly reminder of what's driving drug prices skyward, despite pharma's self defense that it needs higher prices for "research."

    Research-- my foot. Oh wait, there's a cure for that. If anyone out there loves drug ads, let me ask them this: would you rather have higher prices or more "education" about new products?

  166. I agree whole heartily with you, you make good points, but when I do not watch Netflix but cable, I do not see the ads. None of them. Maybe some doctor should investigate me and my neurological system, because I never see ads. Oh wait, I remember the Abilify ad because there is a wonderful movie (on Netflix) called "Side effects" which takes this product and others and wraps it in a suspenseful movie. Look at it and then look at RAPT, which addresses the 1%.

  167. How many people know that drug companies write off their "advertising and promotion" costs from their taxes as a cost of doing business? They also get to write off insurance costs and the cost of lawsuits if their drugs kill or maim someone. Ludicrous. Their business should be saving lives, not making profit. Get Wall Street OUT of OUR medical complex.

  168. I believe drug companies cherry pick their own testing to focus on pluses of their drugs and play down their liabilities. But it's off-label applications that worry me the most.

  169. How fitting that America's most pernicious drug -- TV -- is financed in large part by drug companies. It's not an easy addiction to kick, but the best thing to do is simply not to watch it, which has the added advantage of shielding you from endless political attack ads and mudslinging. This alone ought to help keep your blood pressure down and your spirits up.

  170. Bravo. TV the drug should carry a "brain mortality" warning saying it should be used only when a valuable program that informs and enlightens appears. That would be very rare viewing. TV is the dumbing-down of American society.

  171. The suggestion that our Congress should regulate Drug Companies TV advertising is fantasy at best. Politicians will never bite the hand that feeds them. The mute button works best and I do not have to " compromise" to get it accomplished.

  172. Morally speaking this a form of corruption.

  173. My 11 year-old granddaughter is a baseball fan. I'm lucky in that this is a way in which we can bond. She'll call me up and say, "C.C. is pitching tonight - why don't you come over and we'll watch?". Of course, I'll go over. The problem is that between innings, we are exposed to the Viagra commercials. Do I have to sit with my granddaughter and be told that 40% of men over 40 have difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection?? Personally, I thin it's sick and a form of corruption. Money, money, money. Family values?? ZERO!!!!!! Someone stop this, please.

  174. They have become a joke in our house. The game -- consider the smooth lyrical marketing name and try to guess what the drug is for. Then either grab the tivo remote or wait with bemused anticipation for the appalling amount of side effects and "even death". Who would go to their doctor about this??

  175. Some suggest their reason for watching TV is to inform themselves about new drugs. If thirst for this kind of information is indeed high, then perhaps a specific cable channel can be dedicated to infomercials about new meds. I for one wouldn't miss the lugubrious warnings about liver failure, coma and death as possible side effects. Not to mention thoughts of suicide.

  176. When I was suing big pharma for misrepresentation in the 1990's, the cost of advertising was included in the Research & Development costs used to justify the high price of patented drugs. Because a large percentage of drug costs are paid through various government programs, allowing this accounting procedure results in corporate welfare. Stop the subsidy and I suspect the TV advertising will decrease significantly.

  177. While at it, not only drug ads should be banned across this land of commercializing every little pimple or other condition one could have during a lifetime but the ones of law firms asking to join class action suits against company A, B or C as well, should one have been 'injured' by a medical device.

    Not only are ads of pharmaceutical companies banned in almost all nations of the world, the ones by lawyers are as well.

    Only in America are the airwaves saturated with ad infinitum ads of both wonder pills for every ailment known to mankind, while at the same time trying to tell consumers to hire themselves a law firm and sue the heck out of every company whose product might have harmed them at some point in time.

  178. We live in the age of self-diagnosis. There are a myriad number of web- sites that a consumer can use to correctly or most importantly incorrectly link symptoms to a disease. Pharmaceutical companies have simply taken the model of "create a demand from the patient". After all, we are moving to the notion that patients are customers that we want to keep happy, so that under the ACA, our Doctors recieve high ratings. At Medical conferences, receceptions are used for socializing and for product / manufacturer networking. Many Doctors are so tightly scheduled at their "practice" that they have liitle time to meet with Pharmaceutical reps . So, the companies have decided to use the "lobbying" of patients through television. Banning ads for prescription drugs may not be the answer but free speech of those that manufacture drugs should be a non starter. Otherwise , there is no need for Federal and State oversight of any endeavor and the charlatans that sell any remedy should be left alone. Those that have had bad experiences with medications can find social networks , where many of the side effects are discussed in "real time". One needs only to research Botox, and look at the discussion groups / shared experiences. When I visit my Doctor, I have never come in with an attitude of , "can we try this medication". We must not assume that television ads ceate knowledgeable consumers.

  179. Ban the commercial prescription drug ads as they once were. The US is only 1 of 2 countries that allows direct to consumer drug ads. New Zealand is the other country.

    We pay for these pricy ads as part of our drug costs. Some drug companies include advertising costs in with research costs, and advertising costs may be higher than actual research costs.

    Ask why so many other countries ban direct to consumer drug advertising.

  180. If tobacco ads can be banned from television, why can't pharmaceutical ads?

    The "commercial free speech" argument doesn't appear to apply to tobacco companies. It shouldn't apply to prescription drugs either.

  181. These ads should be illegal. A drug requires a prescription because the FDA believes that the decision to use it requires some technical knowledge. My patients seem to agree. When I see an ad for a new and expensive prescription drug, a drug that I have carefully reviewed and decided not to use, the add burns me up, even though I liberally use the mute button on my remote control. I do agree however with another reader's comment that patients rarely ask for these drugs based on such ads.

  182. I hope I'm not repeating what others may have posted here, but one of the largest costs for pharma companies is the marketing/advertising budgets for pushing these drugs. They're intrusive, but they get people to ask their doctors about them -- and most of the time, doctors aren't familiar with them at all. Thankfully, in our home, we tend to record shows we like and we can fast forward through the ads. I often wonder why the heck does Pfizer advertise Viagra during sports events? Oh, wait. Men watch them, and most are insecure about things like E.D. Same thing for the evening news on all the networks -- the ad space is filled to overflowing with drugs being pitched to old people. It's insane and it adds nothing to the practical world of medical care.

  183. The ads are as slick as Teflon and just as tasteless.

  184. They can't sell the drug if they don't sell the disease first. How many people develop illnesses and symptoms because they saw them (repeatedly) on television? It's called brainwashing.

    The fellow below who discovered a sleep aid on television might want to change doctors; his doctor went to medical school and charges well for his services. It's not a patient's job to educate his physician.

  185. I am always amazed that people would even consider most of these drugs after hearing the possible side effects.....I just tune them out when I hear them.

  186. What is particularly bothersome about prescription drug ads is viewers having to suffer through a long litany of side effect descriptions (and in many cases all that means is that 5% of a test group reported the side effect compared to 2% of a placebo group). I assume that the discussion of side effects is a regulatory requirement in drug ads, but I don't want to hear about diarrhea or constipation or vomiting or night sweats while watching TV at dinnertime.

    Perhaps ads could be shortened (thereby reducing the marketing costs that are baked into drug prices) if pharmaceutical companies were allowed to simply say, "there are some possible side effects of this drug. Go to www.ourgreatnewdrug.com to read more, or ask your doctor" Similarly, is it really necessary for print ads targeted at consumers to include 1 or 2 pages of small print gibberish that nobody, and I mean nobody ever in history, actually reads? Again, omit that requirement and ad costs, which are passed onto patients, would decrease.

  187. Pharmaceutical advertisers are not required to enumerate all known side effects in their ads—doing so would take too long. Instead, advertisers cherry pick the side effects: thus the prominent mention in all ED ads to consult your doctor in the event of an erection lasting 4 hours.

  188. it's not cherry picking. The FDA requires the most common effects that are different from placebo to be listed, and in the case of erections lasting more than four hours, the most dangerous ones, even if rare.

  189. There is a misconception within the majority of comments about "how prices work". It's true that current drug prices include advertising costs. However, if advertising budgets were slashed, drug prices might not change. This is because the monopolist producers will charge whatever they can for the drug,as opposed to charging what it actually costs to produce the drug. One reason why prescription drug prices are so inflated--and insurance premiums are so high-- is consumers historically bear only a small portion of the cost and the insurance company pays the rest. So the normal "cost-benefit analysis" doesn't apply; and high prices don't lead to lower demand (especially if the drug companies can convince consumers to ask doctors to prescribe these drugs!).

    The solution? 1) a single payer system, so the government can negotiate lower drug prices, or 2) incentives for both doctors and patients to lower prescription drug costs. We are already seeing attempts to achieve #2. And while we are at it, can we return to "commercial-free news broadcasts", like we used to have in this country? Like other readers, I stopped watching the news due to both the ridiculous ads and the increasingly commercial nature of the news broadcast itself.

  190. This sounds like good advice, but inasmuch as I am in the habit of never believing the exaggerated hopes and false promises contained in Times editorials, it's hard for me to see how I can follow it.

  191. I have felt for years that these drug ads are a major contributor to the anxiety people now feel about their lives. We have all become the Woody Allen character who sees every pimple and every twinge as an indication of an immediate, impending and painful demise.

  192. The drug ads....well ..keep in mind that the FDA ...asks the manufacturers of
    these over the counter drugs...and prescription drugs to do testing on their
    own products...sort of like the very canny fox guarding the hen house
    ...very false ethical practice....
    and
    that is why ....there is so much in the way of disclaimers ...about using all
    these medical miracles...which could permanently damage or KILL YOU...
    !!!...Please do your fact checking...NYTimes...

  193. Most are aware that an ad for Xarelto, is often followed by an ad urging one to contact an attorney? Wonder where the benefits lies?

  194. When these drug commercials come on, I close my eyes and listen when the side effects are described as this is when the most visually stimulating images are programmed to distract us from hearing all the bad things the drug does.

  195. Lets just take the profit motive out of the medical industry entirely.

  196. Considering how prudish some Americans are, I am surprised that they tolerate drug ads, including the ones that advise: "See your doctor for an erection lasting more than four hours."

  197. It seems that the actors in these ads are almost always shows walking in slow motion. Guess the drugs are working.

    And I don't want to ask my doctor if xxx is "right for me". I expect him to know.

  198. FIRST, DO NO HARM is the beginning phrase in the Hippocratic Oath that doctors and other healthcare providers adhere to in their professional practices. What does that mean pragmatically in an era where drug companies have won in court being able to hawk their wares to the public like a bunch of old-time snake oil salesmen, under the guise of "corporate free speech." Never mind that corporations, though legally endowed with the rights of people are not, in fact citizens. They are artificial legalistic constructs. The corporations take no Hippocratic oath. In my opinion, they take the Hypocritic Oath, aided and abetted by judicial extremist political activist judges legislating from the bench.

    All medications administered to all patients at all times is an empirical process. There is no universal test for the impact of drugs on each individual's biochemistry. Without a history of a severe allergic reaction to specific drugs, each patient's response may be hypothesized by the doctors, but not predicted. Empirical means, in plain English, to take an action and then watch to see what happens. So the doctor must hypothesize what medication seems likely to have the greatest benefit for individual patients. The guiding principle is somewhere between First Do No Harm and Corporate Free Speech. Standards of medical care dictate that it must be the judgement of each provider be applied in prescribing medications; for safety reasons it must not be subject to interference.

  199. How wonderful to read what I have been thinking for years- It is ludicrous to be assaulted constantly by Big Pharma advertising. "Ask your doctor if .... is right for you" is ridiculous! I am not a medical doctor; HE or SHE prescribes medication for patients, not the other way round. The USA- of the corporation, by the corporation, for the corporation.

  200. As a retired physician, I am appalled by the endless prescription drug ads that bombard us during short bursts of actual programming.

    But let's look at non-RX products as well. A family member needed a sleep-aid ... and so, falling for the TV ad for ZzzzQuil, she purchased a pack ... not bothering to look at the only active ingredient: Diphenhydramine 25mg. This 'drug' is the generic form (and one-half of the RX strength) of Benadryl ... an anti-histamine used in this case for its side effect of drowsiness. The cost of the ZzzzzzzzQuil was practically twice that of the store-brand product.

  201. I frequently watch the broadcast national news with my wife. We simply figure that the target audience, people like us, are largely middle-aged to older. Our demographic still reads newspapers and tunes in to the news. The younger generation is tuning out and reading less. The drug ads are about more than marketing. They are also about vast social and political change and we are not so sure it is for the good.

  202. You cannot watch 15 minutes of television without a drug ad coupled with fast food commercials. And love the line "ask your doctor" as if I actually went to medical school and not he or she. i would argue that they should be telling me not the other way around. It's like when a police officer pulls you over and asks you "do you know Why I pulled you over".? Isn't it their job to tell me? And all the side effects are worse than the disease it is supposedly helping.
    I adore my doctor and pediatrician specifically because they don't over subscribe anything. My pediatrician during cold season actually encourages you not to bring the baby in because the waiting room is a germ fest and they'll actually pick up something worse. Her advice was to take her temperature, give lots of fluids and keep her cool. She's almost 10 and got sick 1 time. Thankfully, she threw up on my husband instead of me!
    They have medications for a reason and doctors know which will be beneficial unless they are shady. I think the drug companies take advantage of doctor's huge amount of debt. Everyone assumes doctors are living high on the hog but it takes them years to pay off undergrad and med loans. If you are that talented to do medical or research work, we should forgive the debt once you graduate. And before anyone thinks it's a weird idea, we gave Wall Street a pass and then rewarded them. The Jamie Dimons of the world are not going to be taking care of your teenager who had a car accident.