Medicine and Drugs - Direct to Consumer Pharmaceutical Marketing

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The Problems of Direct to Consumer Pharmaceutical Marketing

In 1997, the Food and Drug Administration relaxed its restrictions on direct-to-consumer marketing of pharmaceuticals. Prior to this ruling, drug manufacturers were prohibited from mentioning both the name of the drug and its indications in consumer-directed advertisements without also including a large amount of technical information about the drug, including all known side effects, contraindications, and dosage recommendations (Stevens, 1998). In addition to interfering with the appeal of the advertisements, such requirements rendered broadcast ads infeasible due to time constraints, and hindered ads in print media due to cost and space availability. These
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Proponents of direct-to-consumer, or DTC, pharmaceutical advertising, most prominently the drug companies themselves, argue that DTC marketing results in improved public health by increasing consumer awareness. According to this view, direct marketing to the consumer alerts the public of the availability of treatment for a given condition, a fact of which it may not otherwise be aware. This knowledge may prompt people to seek medical help rather than unnecessarily accepting their ailments (Miller, 1998). Furthermore, supporters claim that ads raise awareness of undiagnosed conditions by providing information about symptoms. Since countless Americans suffer from undiagnosed disorders-only half of the estimated 16 million Americans with diabetes know they have the disease-the motivation to seek treatment provided by these ads is a valuable public benefit (Health Matters, 1998). Similarly, by prompting people to visit a doctor, ads may help identify conditions unrelated to the specific area of concern. For example, according to Mike Magee, a medical adviser for Pfizer, a large proportion of consumers seeking Viagra would not otherwise see a doctor, so visits seeking help for erectile dysfunction often uncover conditions warranting medical attention, such as diabetes (Shapiro and Schultz, 2000). Some doctors support DTC ads as well,

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