Prescription ads carry weight with patients
|CNN's Eileen O'Connor reports on the effects of drug advertisement
June 17, 1999
Web posted at: 5:29 p.m. EDT (2129 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Eileen O'Connor
(CNN) -- Like pollen in spring, prescription drug advertising fills the air -- airwaves, that is.
Pharmaceutical companies spent more than a billion dollars in 1998 on direct-to-consumer ads on television and radio and in newspapers and magazines. That was up 24 percent from the year before.
According to a study by Time Inc., 29 percent of viewers -- or one in four people -- did just as the commercials advised and talked to their doctor about a drug they saw advertised.
Industry advocates say this patient education is a good thing.
"We have an enormous problem in this country with respect to undertreatment and underdiagnosis of disease ... to the extent that those patients are able to get more information, it's going to allow them to have more informed conversations with their doctors, and that's good for them," said America's Pharmaceutical Co. President Alan Holmer.
It is good for business, too.
Twenty-three percent of patients surveyed in the Time Inc. study said they ended up with a prescription for the medication they saw advertised. Some even said they had switched doctors if the doctor hadn't given them the prescription they wanted.
This has some doctors concerned. Some say while it is great for patients to be able to know what medications are on the market, they are also asking for medications that do not meet their needs.
At a breakfast summit sponsored by Time and Health magazines, former Food and Drug Administration head David Kessler said some patients may be demanding expensive drugs they simply do not need.
"Pitching one drug when in fact there are other options that could be more effective -- that I believe can be dangerous," said Kessler.
Ad proponents argue that many consumers see or read drug ads, hear the side effects warnings and leave it to the doctors to decide what is best.
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