Prescription Drug Advertising

March 2, 2017

Lyndsey Case (12) and Mackenzie Brey (11) access the pros and cons to prescription drug advertising.

Prescription Drug Advertising – Con

As a consumer, It is nearly impossible to not run into advertisements promoting various prescription drugs. Ads can range from prescription inhaler medication to digestive problems to skin issues and so on. Typically, when viewing a prescription drug ad on television, consumers like to note the extensive list of ‘side effects’ to the drugs, but the problem that researchers have found, does not lie in the side effects, but rather in misinformation.


With many prescription drugs being advertised on the market, 63% of physicians surveyed in April 2013 believed prescription drug ads misinformed patients, and 74% of physicians believe prescription drug ads overemphasized the benefits of the drugs according to an article found on prescription drug ads emphasize the benefits of their product, placing little focus on if the drug is adequately suitable for the interested consumer. This leads the consumer to be misinformed about the use of the drug, which can lead to an unnecessary and unsafe prescription. Though it is the doctors that write the prescription, the advertisements allow a way for consumers to be swayed into convincing doctors that that prescription is right for them, possibly exaggerating their real symptoms, to fit the criteria for that specific medication.


  1. Lee Ventola, researcher, states that, “the FDA does not approve ads before they air on TV or radio, yet 50% of consumers surveyed thought DTC prescription drug ads were approved by the government.” The idea that a drug advertisement has to be approved by the FDA causes consumers to assume that that medication is safe for them to use. The drug is approved, but the commercials for that drug, do not need to be approved. This means that the commercials are allowed to say whatever they desire about the drug, regardless if it is true or not.

Due to the influx of prescription drug advertisements in the media, the misinformation often presented in these ads leads to over-medicating patients and misinformed and unsafe consumer prescription use.

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Pro prescription drug ads

In 2005, an article in Journal of Family Practice claimed that 83% of prescription drug print ads put focus on “patient-physician communication” and 76% “promoted dialogue with healthcare professionals”. To restate, the ads that we read in our favorite magazines help us start conversations with our doctors about our health issues and illnesses. Not only is this a great thought, but it means that these ads are doing us some good. Many argue and say that these ads are misleading or create a distrust between the drug companies and the consumer, but if the ads are starting a difficult conversation, then the consumer should not turn their backs on them.


In fact, 73% of doctors concluded that patients asked “thoughtful questions” because of DTC ads. These issues that these patients are addressing may not be that pressing or be of any real concern, but at least people are doing there best to learn all they can. And yes, the ads may be a little overly thorough, while they list off side effects that sound like a death wish that just simply are not true, I believe that I speak for the consumer when I say that when it comes to the side effects of a prescribed drug, I would much rather be over than under informed.  


On the contrary – however – the Journal of General Internal Medicine conducted and published a study that clarified how “43% of the claims in DTC drug ads were “objectively true” while 55% were “potentially misleading” and 2% were “false.” “, but in the mind of the consumer, when in the market for medication, I would rather know too much and be safe rather than sorry.


To conclude, though these ads may contain false information and mislead the paying consumer to think the worst, these ads are meant to protect us and if embedding the studied effects among the pseudo effects helps the people stay informed, then by all means, these drugs must continue this practice.

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