If I were asked what my top three reasons are for why we need to rethinking how Direct to Consumer advertisements are regulated I would first deliberate on the statistic involved with DTC ads. Which we all have access to the information at this point so I’m not going to rattle on about it. However, it is important to point out the growth that comes from the DTC ads and the increase of drug consumption.
The first reason we should rethink how DTC ads are regulated is as pointed out by the FDA, there is minimal oversight of how accurately the drugs are advertised (Health Affairs, 2003). Essentially, drug companies that falsely advertise their products are served little more than a slap on the wrist from the FDA (Health Affairs, 2003). There needs to be a better way for the FDA to penalize companies for misleading the public.
Second, there is a notable increase in consumers being prescribed drugs by their physicians that are DTC advertised (Health Affairs, 2003). Which isn’t necessarily bad for the consumers, but if the drug companies are falsely reporting facts about the effects and side effects of the product. Then there can be less than desirable consequences to the consumers, all the while the drug companies continue to profit (Health Affairs, 2003).
Third, allowing drug companies to directly advertise to consumers enables them to do what is called branding. Meaning that they can inflate drug prices because of the brand name the product carries with it once it has become available in the market. One of the effects of branding is consumers being misinformed about what their options are in regards to treatment. Often enough, even after the drug patent has expired, consumers will choose the more expensive brand name drugs over the lower costing generic drug simply because of the established brand recognition. And in some cases, the pharmaceutical companies are producers of both the brand and generic products allowing the companies to have near or total control of a particular market for that drug. Basically, they can double dip into consumers’ pockets with little to no competition. This is referred to as a monopoly and can mean much higher prices for consumers, as well as a lack of potentially lifesaving drugs, since a single company can only produce a certain number of units regardless of how much of the market they control.
The best solutions to these problems would be to limit drug companies to only being able to advertise in less popular mediums, like magazines, or only in doctor offices. An alternative solution in congruence with limiting advertising mediums would be to require drug companies to only advertise directly to medical service providers. So that way only the medically informed individuals are making the decisions in regards to patient treatment, not consumers that normally don’t have a medical background. This could make drug companies more competitive and more accountable by giving them a more well educated audience to appease. Most importantly, regulations need to be changed which would allow the FDA to be able to better hold drug companies accountable as mentioned in the above paragraph. Additionally, the government needs to be able to reduce the number of pharmaceutical monopolies and lower the barriers to entry so there can be more drug producers in the market. By doing this drug prices will be reduced and there will be more drugs available. Furthermore, an increase in competition should lead to more innovation and better drugs for consumers. In conclusion, besides making conditions better for consumers, these afore mentioned solutions would also result in a major blow to big pharma. Which would have even larger implications than just helping consumers, it could affect everything from politics to the war on drugs and the opioid crisis. But that is where I am going to leave this post because otherwise it will surpass the assignment threshold.
Health Affairs. (2003). Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/suppl/2003/12/05/hlthaff.w3.120v1.DC1