How many times have you laughed at the commercials for Ambien, Zoloft or the various erectile dysfunction medications?? We all laugh about it, but do we fully understand how damaging this is to our medical system and society?
I have heard average New Yorker’s on the subway discussing Ambien or Xanax as if they were aspirin. When did this happen? I think it is a result of multiple factors, but the first being the fact that we advertise these drugs in the United States. Direct to Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals has changed the way Americans conduct the business of health care. This is the only form of DTCA where the consumer is unable to purchase the product legally without a “middle man.” A consumer watches an ad, decides they need medicine and off to the doctor they go…
If the doctor refuses them, that doctor looses business and the patient will just go elsewhere to get the prescription. If the doctor writes the prescription he or she is guaranteed future business when the script needs to be refilled. Are we making consumers more aware of products and illnesses or creating a major obstacle in the doctor patient relationship? Not to mention the financial impact that these ads have Americans.
In 2012 the top 10 pharmaceutical companies spent $2.7 billion on DTCA.  That does not include internet advertisements. That money should be going towards Research and Development. The U.S. already pays outrageously larger amounts for prescriptions than other countries. Lipitor, which is, used for high cholesterol (in case you don’t own a television and haven’t heard) costs $11 in South Africa, $13 in Spain and in the U.S. on average a prescription is $100.  We do not need to subsidize the ads to get us to take the prescriptions as well.
So here we are in 2013 in the middle of changing our health care system. You can keep your insurance for another year, you will still be able to laugh at your pharmaceutical ads, but what is being done to reform the pharmaceutical industry? They donate to both parties; they have spent billions on lobbyist, lawsuits and advertising. They are getting serious bang for their buck. Even a $3 billion fraud fine barely fazed GlaxoSmithKline.  It certainly wasn’t going to bankrupt them. We need to take a serious look at pharmaceutical policies both in the U.S. and globally. Banning DTCA seems to me be a no brainer. It would save money, which is supposed to be the ultimate goal of the healthcare reform. In terms of the power the pharmaceutical companies have at what point do we say enough is enough?
 “Top 10 Pharma Advertising Budgets 2012”. 2013. Fierce Pharma. http://www.fiercepharma.com/special-reports/top-10-pharma-advertising-budgets-2012
 “11 Major Drug Companies Ranked in $85 Billion Last Year, and Left Many to Die Who Couldn’t Buy Their Pricey Drugs”. 2013. AlterNet. http://www.alternet.org/11-major-drug-companies-raked-85-billion-last-year-and-left-many-die-who-couldnt-buy-their-pricey
 “Gaxo Fine What Will Stop Big Pharma Fraud”. 2012. Time.com. http://ideas.time.com/2012/07/06/glaxo-fine-what-will-stop-big-pharma-fraud/