Drugs are used to treat illnesses ranging from the common cold to terminal illnesses, e.g., cancer, diabetes, heart, and cardiovascular disease. Drugs are prescribed by licensed doctors not selected by patients with illnesses. Why then are drugs advertised on television?
In 2018 Big Pharma spent $2.8 Billion advertising pharmaceuticals to consumers, called Direct to Consumer (DTC) (1). “187 television commercials for about 70 prescription medications have collectively aired almost half a million times since the start of 2018 (1).” This offers zero value to the effectiveness of the drugs and the costs are passed on to the end user. This is the reason that a pill that sells for $1 in Canada, sells for $10 in the USA. “Studies have confirmed — the ads promote the use of costly, but not necessarily the most effective, drugs. Generics rarely get advertised (2).”
“Investment in DTC advertising for prescription cancer medications more than tripled from $163 million in 2015 to $505 million in 2017 (2).” “Americans pay more for drugs and medical devices than any other country. Big Pharma follows potential patients everywhere — on TV, in print and online (3).” The USA and the island of New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow DTC advertising by pharmaceutical companies (3).
According to Nielsen, the bulk of these DTC ads appear on television at a rate of 80 ads per hour of programming (3). These ads drive up prescription drug prices and also erode the patient-doctor relationship, as patients are telling doctors what drugs they want. The costs of DTC advertising exceed the amount of money spent on research and development (3).
“Big Pharma has paid billions of dollars in criminal and civil settlements over the years because of marketing fraud that cost taxpayers billions and left others with debilitating medical conditions (3).” For example, The Department of Justice accused Johnson & Johnson of spending billions to target children and the elderly for unapproved drug uses, exposing them to serious side effects, including death (3).
The American Medical Association has asked for a ban on DTC advertising (4). “(AMA) Physicians cited concerns that a growing proliferation of ads is driving demand for expensive treatments despite the clinical effectiveness of less costly alternatives … an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices … DTC advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate (4).”
The top four television networks: CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox take the majority of the advertising budget with CBS at the top of the list at $511 million (3). “Ads for erectile dysfunction, arthritis pain, and blood thinners are dominate (3).” The average CBS viewer is age 59, the target age for most of these prescription drugs (3).
The result is the sick, infirm, disabled. elderly, and dying are paying a great deal more for their medicines while Big Pharma continues to raise prices and increase profits (5). Tell others about this problem. Post this article on social media and send it to your elected representatives. By Larry Kuka
Web accessed 7/5/19
3 https://www.drugwatch.com/featured/big-pharma-marketing/ web accessed 7/5/19