Every time I see one of those annoying drug company advertisements, I want to throw something at my television. I’m sure everyone has seen them. At the end of the commercials, it tells you to “ask your doctor” about this drug or that drug. It’s as if your doctor may not be aware of this miracle drug so you need to be the one to educate him. I’m astounded that the FDA doesn’t do anything about it. Simply stated, drug company commercials should be banned from all media just as cigarette commercials are banned. No difference!
The FDA does in fact regulate direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising (DTCPA) but one would never know if you’re watching any shows with ads. It’s regarded as free speech but more importantly, the drug companies have deep pockets and there’s no way the FDA could investigate every questionable advertisement. Every commercial or at least every other commercial talks about your ailments and how they can help you fix them if you can just convince your doctor this is what you need. According to C. Lee Ventola, MS, a consultant medical writer, “exposure to DTCPA prompted 27% of Americans to make an appointment with their doctor to talk about a condition they had not previously discussed.” That’s an astounding percent and in all likelihood results in increased profits for big pharma.
Big pharma has very deep pockets and profit is ultimately the bottom line. I usually have no problem with that, as that’s why most companies exist, but profit by appealing to the vulnerable and sick is unconscionable. There needs to be better accountability. No one should take any medications unless it is absolutely necessary, i.e., blood pressure medication, blood thinners, insulin or statins which are miracle drugs and save thousands of lives every year. But all of these peripheral drugs, the ones that really are “nice vs. necessary” drugs that make drug companies billions of dollars a year, need to be regulated more carefully.
Back in the day, pharmaceutical companies spent billions of dollars wining and dining doctors so that doctors would push their drugs. Some would say that’s a harsh assessment, I say it’s spot on. These “incentives” included but were not limited to sporting events, concerts, expensive dinners and even trips to the Caribbean. There was really no limit to what was attainable depending on the size of the practice. Pharma reps had big budgets and many doctors took advantage. That’s not to say that the doctors wouldn’t have prescribed their drugs regardless, but the opioid epidemic was at least partly due to this cozy relationship. Although there are no laws prohibiting doctors receiving gifts, it is not nearly as acceptable today, as doctors don’t want to be accused of drug bias, based on the gifts they receive. In addition, prescriptions are now much more highly regulated than they were in the past. Gone are the days of the paper prescription. Everything is tracked and monitored through computer software. If a doctor was prescribing a particular opioid, it would be far more transparent today than in the past.
Now that doctors are less likely to take gifts in exchange for drugs prescribed, drug companies have taken a different approach. Let’s convince the patients that they need these drugs, and they can convince their doctors. So, the patients are now doing the work of big pharma. We have become our own drug pushers. “We need these drugs and big pharma is showing us the way.” It’s infuriating actually. Our government controls much of what we do or can’t do in our lives. Many of those regulations are beneficial. No illegal dumping, speed limits, seatbelts, recycling to name just a handful. There’s no reason why the government can’t ban pharmaceutical advertising. That would also be to our benefit. Doctors and only doctors should be in charge of determining what drugs their patients should be prescribed. Free speech when the speech involves selling drugs that are unnecessary or may be harmful, should not be protected. Ban Pharmaceutical advertising immediately!