Prescription drug administration requires a personalized and individualized approach. When companies introduce advertisements into the process, they influence the patient’s agenda negatively and lead to the commercialization of a highly sensitive industry. Studies show that half of America’s population takes a minimum of one drug per day.
Clearly, something is wrong if this is happening. Pharmaceutical companies should not advertise prescription drugs because the practice will damage the US medical system through poor physician-patient relationships, increased/ unnecessary drug use and excessive health costs.
Why prescription drugs advertisement is dangerous
Advertisements are not entirely unwelcome in the pharmaceutical industry. Many companies have been advertising over-the-counter drugs for a long time. However, drug authorities prohibited them from engaging in prescription drug advertisements.
The FDA changed that rule in 1997 because of the assumption that advertising would provide consumers with much-needed information on their health. However, the reality of this assumption is now heavily contested. Challenges faced by physicians and other medical professionals are increasing.
Medical expenditures dominate the country’s pharmaceutical advertisements of prescription drugs to consumers. It is startling that the country’s budget for FDA’s regulatory activities is approximately $2.4 billion, yet pharmaceutical businesses spend about $ 4.8 billion in prescription drug advertising (Gagnon & Lexchin 284). If the administrators are complaining about rising health costs or inefficiency in the health systems, then prescription drug advertising could be a clear indication of misplaced priorities.
Furthermore, the United States is a highly medicated society; people use drugs just to get through their daily activities. One needs to analyze whether prescription drug advertisement accelerates this condition or reduces it. All these issues necessitate a thorough analysis of the moral, legal, ethical and economic issues prevailing in such campaigns.
The advertisement of prescription drugs would damage physician and patient relationships. When consumers learn about a new drug from their television sets, they still require approval from their doctors to purchase the drug. Some patients become so convinced about a drug’s usefulness that they challenge their doctor’s judgment or credibility.
Instead of treating one’s doctor as an authority in medicine, the patient starts to think of him or her as an adversary. One example was an advertisement for a toenail. In the advert, the sponsoring company claimed that when certain creatures live in one’s toenails, then this would damage that part of the body.
The firm essentially asserted that patients need to guard against these toenail complications by using their drugs. If a patient previews information on his or her television screen, and later develops complications with his or her toes, then he or she would be tempted to ask his or her doctor about the drug. The doctor would have to spend valuable time to explain to the patient that the toenail drug is quite risky (with regard to toxicity), immensely expensive, and unnecessary.
He would have to convince the patient that no creature exists in his or her toes. It is wiser to spend this precious time on the actual problem behind the toenail complication, which could be diabetes, a vascular complication or a heart related issue rather than spending it on a false alarm. Clearly, these advertisements would undermine patient and physician relations. This would increase wastage of time during physician consultations and thus propagate inefficiency in the US medical system (Ziad & Lyles 70).
Not only does prescription drug advertisement lead to poor patient-doctor relationships, it also increases medical costs in the country. Pharmaceutical companies do not have to advertise affordable drugs because doctors would prescribe them in any case. However, the expensive ones are a different case. In fact, this advertising increases the uptake of expensive medication thus increasing healthcare costs in the country (Atherly & Rubin 30).
Prescription drug advertisements harm consumer’s health by promoting the use of unnecessary or wrong drugs. Consumers think that a drug advertisement differs from a conventional advertisement because the FDA has probably scrutinized it. Many clients operate under the assumption that the latter authority screens all prescription drug advertisements before publicly displaying them.
They also think that the necessary risks in the advert have all been highlighted. The FDA cannot scrutinize all advertisements; therefore, consumers end up taking drugs that they do not fully understand. Furthermore, one must look at the overall effect of these promotions. The prescription drug industry causes many consumers to believe that they require long term drug treatment for minor complaints.
As a result, a number of consumers may continue to use those drugs even when the drugs are not necessary. This leads to drug overuse and an increase in healthcare expenditure, too. The advertisements heighten the demand for drugs based on the effectiveness of their promotional campaigns rather than the country’s health needs. Commercialization of the drug industry would be too detrimental to the health system to ignore.
Some individuals argue that prescription drug advertisements have an educational value. They claim that the promotions inform the public about all the possible alternatives they can use to cope with or treat their disease. However, this reasoning is inaccurate because the information comes from a non neutral body.
Talking about the merits of the drug instead of its risks is in the best interest of the pharmaceutical company. Most of these advertisements tend to downplay the risks associated with their drugs. One only needs to look at case studies of companies that advertise their drugs such as Vioxx. The manufacturer recorded a 20 million increase in sales after advertisements had been commenced.
Many Americans responded to the drug advertisements without necessarily understanding all the health implications involved. After this surge in Vioxx use, scientists discovered that the drug increased the risk of getting a stroke or heart attack by one hundred percent. If the advertised information came from a neutral body that talked about general health conditions, then the point would be valid; however, since the advertisement only focuses on one brand, then the possibilities of bias are simply too high.
Companies that advertise their prescriptions do not care much about health-related goals; most of them are profit-driven. These advertisements could never replace a doctor’s guidance and advice. Furthermore, the concerned companies never talk about their state of approval or the stage of drug development. Consequently, consumers may be misinformed about the drugs (Martinez & Lewis 110). One also has to look at the nature of those advertisements in order to understand their non educational value.
A number of them are highly emotive; instead of appealing to consumer’s rational side, most of them focus on the emotive one, which undermines their legitimacy. It is too difficult to balance the commercial imperative with the public’s needs. In most cases the commercial imperative always takes over. Therefore, the educational value of these drug advertisements is highly questionable.
Other supporters of prescription drugs also believe that prescription drugs would lead to better technology use in the pharmaceutical industry. They achieve this by informing clients about new treatments or innovations. Therefore, these supporters believe that prescription drug advertising encourages greater innovation. However, this argument is weightless when one looks at current budget allocations in the drug manufacturing industry.
Pharmaceuticals in the US dedicate 13.4% of their budget to research and development. Many of them spend 24.4% of their revenue on advertisements and other promotional activities. Therefore, one can argue that these advertisements lead to misplaced priorities. Instead of focusing on better alternatives or products, companies now dwell on marketing their products. This is an inefficient method of using the country’s healthcare resources.
The cost of America’s expenditure is going up because consumers are buying expensive and unnecessary drugs. Furthermore, the advertisements are changing the physician-patient relationship by making it adversarial in nature.
This causes wastage of time during healthcare treatment thus promoting inefficiencies. The biased nature of the adverts neutralizes any potential positive effects they create, such as educating the public. Prescription drugs, therefore, undermine the healthcare system by promoting drug overuse and thus commercializing the health system.
The audience consists of all those entities that support prescription drug use such as pharmaceutical drug owners as well as drug manufacturing associations, advertising associations, the Food and Drug Administration, some physicians and medical professionals who support prescription drug advertising, and consumer rights groups such as Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.
Atherly, Adam & Rubin, Paul. “The cost effectiveness of direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs.” Medical care research and review 2.3(2009): 20-41. CQ researcher. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Gagnon, MarcAndre & Lexchin, Joel. “The cost of pushing pills: a new estimate of pharmaceutical promotion expenditures in the United States.” Public Library of Science Medicine, 13(2008): 280-289. CQ researcher. Web. 30 Nov. 2011.
Martinez, Lourdes & Lewis, Nehama. “The role of direct-to-consumer advertising in shaping public opinion surrounding prescription drug use to treat depression or anxiety in youth.” Health Communication 14(2009): 105-123. Print.
Ziad, Gellad & Lyles, Kenneth. “Direct to consumer advertising pharmaceuticals.” American Journal of Medicine 13.4 (2007): 67-83. Print.