Drug Ad Drawbacks

July 6, 2009 5:52:44 PM PDT
You can't watch television for more than a few minutes without seeing a commercial for a prescription drug.You see drugs for insomnia ... or maybe you've wondered if you have restless leg syndrome. Pharmaceutical companies spend an average of 5-billion dollars a year pitching drugs to Americans.

Consumer Reports Jamie Kopf Hirsh said, "A big problem is people see ads and then may press their doctor for that particular drug. And often it's not the best choice".

In fact, a recent Consumer Reports survey reveals 20 percent of those taking a prescription medication on a regular basis have requested a drug they had seen or heard, advertised. And the majority, 67 percent say their doctor did prescribe it.

Consumer Reports Dr. John Santa said, "Another problem is the newest drugs being advertised may not be the safest".

Take the painkiller, Vioxx, for instance. In the year 2000, Merck spent more than $160-million dollars advertising it.

The ads ran even after concerns were raised linking Vioxx with heart problems. Merck ultimately pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004.

"People don't realize the FDA rarely reviews drug ads before they air. And months, even years, can go by while safety questions are being looked into," said Jamie.

"The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about what's bothering you. But resist the urge to ask for a specific medication," said Dr. Santa.

Older, less-advertised drugs have a longer safety and efficacy record and can cost much less than newer ones.

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