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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Are We Taking Too Many Prescription Medications?

"Get fat on Lorings Fat-ten-u and corpula...
"Get fat on Lorings Fat-ten-u and corpula foods"; "Advertisement showing young woman with package of Loring's Fat-Ten-U food tablets and package of Loring's Corpula, a fat-producting food." Color lithograph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

"Direct to Consumer" prescription drug advertising

Today, while waiting in a doctor's office, we noticed a copy of the magazine WebMD. The cover featured a number of teasers about articles regarding food and recipes, pet health, fitness and exercise, and family and parenting to name a few. Paging through the magazine there were some advertisements for over-the-counter medicines like relief for diaper rash, cold sores, and canker sores. But there were also quite a few prescription drugs advertisements for very serious ailments: multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rheumatoid arthritis, irregular heartbeat, and sleep disorders like narcolepsy or sleep apnea. You have probably seen many ads like this, as they can take up to three or four pages to explain the product, its possible side effects and safety information.

The truth is advertisements (printed and other media) for drugs are not something new. We came across an 84 year old magazine called The Review of Reviews which was published in the United States from 1891-1937.  Paging through the contents of the April 1929 issue we noticed a number of advertisements for drugs. These included: anti-acids, smelling salts, Absorbine Jr., bromo quinine, seasick remedies and aspirin.

A history of direct to consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertising

Depending on your age, you might think that direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs via television ads, magazine ads, or internet sites has been around for many, many decades.  But you would be wrong. According to an article published by the Minnesota Medical Association:
"In 1997, DTC advertising took an important turn when the FDA loosened its requirements for broadcast DTC ads. The new rules, which were finalized in 1999, required that broadcast ads need only provide information about major risks instead of a brief summary of risks and warnings. Under the new requirement, ads must disclose the drug’s major risks and most common adverse effects in the audio or audio/visual parts of the presentation. In addition, DTC ads may make adequate provision for dissemination of package labeling information by referring consumers to a toll-free telephone number, a website, print ads, or their health care providers. The FDA identifies three types of DTC ads: 1) reminder ads that include no reference to the drug’s purpose, benefits, or risks, and that refer to the drug’s brand name only, 2) help-seeking ads that contain information about a disease or medical condition without mentioning the drug’s brand name, and 3) product-claim ads that include both the drug’s brand name and contraindications.6 Product-claim ads are the most common and controversial type of DTC advertising and are the ones regulated by the FDA."

 NBC Today Show posed the question: "Are we too reliant on prescription meds?"

Today's Hoda Kotb, Tom Costello and Dr. Gail Saltz discuss how Americans are taking more prescription medication than ever before.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
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