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Opinion

Direct to Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceutical Drugs

Every evening, the major news outlets broadcast a nightly news report. Except for FOX. Something interesting to measure is the amount of advertising on these broadcasts. In the case of ‘NBC Nightly News’, a full broadcast can be viewed in nineteen minutes.

Nineteen minutes out of a thirty minute broadcast leaves eleven minutes of advertising. If you have ever watched a news broadcast, you know the types of ads you will see—pharmaceutical medications. If you have ever watched a football game in America, you know it is the same story.

What is less known to people, especially Americans, is that it is only in America and New Zealand where anyone can ever witness television advertisements for pharmaceutical medications. It is illegal in every other country in the world for consumers to see pharmaceutical advertising on TV, the radio, or online. Who stands to gain in a ruling to allow something that is banned everywhere else in the world?

As the county struggles through an opioid epidemic its alarming how no one discusses the voice constantly prompting people to ask their doctor about one thing or another.

An unfounded confidence in medications we know nothing about is a distinctly American phenomenon. In only two countries in the world is it legal for drug dealers to market directly to consumers. The existence of ads for drugs is unethical. There are no more ads for cigarettes for a reason. There are rules about the display of people consuming alcohol in advertising for a reason. How many people need to die because of dependence or abuse of pharmaceutical drugs for the US to enact a similar sort of enforcement? Direct to consumer advertising of drugs is the perfect symbol of dirty money in politics.

If you catch a national news broadcast any night of the week you very likely see stories relating to prescription drug overdoses, legal fallout from companies who work primarily to get doctors to prescribe addictive medications without regard for long-term effects, and you may even see political leaders speaking about proposed reform. “When we return,” the broadcaster will say just before passing you onto the dark side. Those words precede a handoff to a highly produced, Congressionally-approved, deluge of drug manufacturers persuading you that you have a problem you did not know you have, and that only they can cure. They have already paid your doctor to prescribe this drug, so ask them about it.