|Drug companies want you to buy these, so they can make|
lots of money.
It's past time for similar legislation to be implemented against pharmaceutical advertising. I'm talking about the commercials that seem to invest roughly 20 percent of their time to actually promoting the product, and the other 80 percent warning of its debilitating side effects, which usually range from dry mouth and diarrhea to death, regardless of the drug in question.
Just like with tobacco advertising, there are public welfare concerns that supersede the "rights" of profit-driven pharmaceutical companies.
The first deals with public health. Drug advertising promotes a culture of hypochondria and chemical dependency through power of suggestion. Television viewers are encouraged to conjure up physical or mental symptoms that may very well be nonexistent — everything from restless leg syndrome to major depression to insomnia to erectile dysfunction to overactive bladder syndrome. Consequently, many are convinced of the presence of an ailment before they even consult a doctor; and when they're placed on a prescription, they become dependent on a drug they don't need.
Of course, a heavily medicated public spells heavy profits for the manufacturers of these medications. Perhaps that's why we're talking about an industry known for spending nearly twice as much on advertising as it does on research.
Conventional wisdom dictates that if I suspect I'm sick, I should consult a medical professional for a diagnosis, not a TV commercial motivated by money. And it should be the doctor — not the advertisement — who advises me of possible side effects. Drug companies, just like tobacco companies, don't care whether I actually need their product, or what might happen to me if I use it. And drug companies, just like tobacco companies, have a financial incentive to facilitate my dependency on a product that may actually be harmful.
Indeed, economics is an equally compelling reason to ban pharmaceutical advertising. There's the logical question of why public advertising should be done on a restricted product in the first place. Again, it should be the doctor, not the patient, whose professional opinion determines what medication should be used, if any. Prescription drugs aren't simply a matter of consumer choice, the way many other products are. Nor should they be.
On a more fundamental level, pharmaceutical advertising creates a significant economic disadvantage for patients. The billions of dollars that drug companies spend annually on advertising could be much more responsibly allocated to research and product affordability. Americans who can't afford prescription medication that they actually do need are arguably victims of a pharmaceutical industry far more concerned with profit than with public health.
Ironically, at least one pharmaceutical company concludes its ads with the oh-so-compassionate assurance that "if you can't afford your medication, we may be able to help." ("May," of course, is the operative term there.)
I'm under no illusion that any such legislation will come to fruition in the near future — if ever. Even if it did, it would never survive the onslaught of legal challenges — or the deluge of money that the pharmaceutical lobby would dump on it to restore the "right" to brainwash us.
That's unfortunate. The public health consequences of unregulated pharmaceutical marketing may not be as conspicuous as those of tobacco advertising, but they are very real. And they affect everyone.
So, tell me: What other countries still allow drug companies to advertise on television without restraint? And what justification exists for it that I'm missing?