Before reading this, I had no idea what DTC adds were. I am aware of the ads on television about certain medications but I had no idea what they were called and never really paid any attention to these ads. After reading these slides I have come up with some points to summarize this advertising practice and why this practice may need a change.
Firstly, the FDA does not require companies to provide an exhaustive and detailed list of side effects in their infomercials. This leaves out certain side effects that may be harmful to the consumer depending on their present medical status and their way of living. Hopefully, if these medications are prescription only medications, then the prescribing doctor would look at the patients’ medical history before prescribing a drug that may have harmful side effects. However, the patient may be resistant to go on other drugs that they have not heard of due to fear of the unknown, so they may only want to take a drug that they have seen in an infomercial. The FDA also reports in a survey that many physicians felt pressure to prescribe a DTC ad drug when a patient brought it up. Secondly, a change for the DTC advertising took place in 2008, when the pharmaceutical industry pledged to not allow actors to play doctors and to make sure that anyone endorsing their product had actually used their product. This does pose a slight problem in that just because someone is endorsing a product does not mean that it worked for them. They are required to have had to try the product, but their opinion on it may be swayed by the amount of money offered to endorse the product. Lastly, DTC ads are putting more prescription drugs and companies under criticism. DTC has reportedly increased demand, but it has also made companies and their products open to criticism that they are trying to maximize profits rather than actually help consumers. This poses a problem when law firms put on commercials stating that a certain prescription drug may cause a serious illness and that the consumer should sue the prescribing doctor and the company who produced the drug. These kinds of ads make consumers wary of companies and drugs and may deter them from getting the help that they need. While one kind of drug may not have worked for one person, it may work for a different person.
An acceptable public health solution is to require companies to provide and exhaustive and detailed list of the side effects to consumers and to only allow endorsements from patients with which the drug has succeeded in doing its job. For providing a list of side effects, the FDA needs to change its requirement back to that of the 1980’s when DTC was first legalized. As for real endorsements, that is slightly trickier as patient confidentiality and HIPPA laws come into play. Patients would have to reach out to pharmaceutical companies themselves to tell the companies if the product worked for them, and from there on the company could ask the patient to publicly endorse their drug.