Drug Ad Drawbacks

Since the government eased advertising restrictions on the pharmaceutical industry in 1997, billions and billions of dollars have been spent marketing prescription drugs.

But Consumer Reports cautions, this type of advertising has some real drawbacks.

Pharmaceutical companies spend an average of five-billion dollars a year pitching drugs to Americans.

"A big problem is people see ads and then may press their doctor for that particular drug," said Consumer Reports' Jamie Kopf Hirsh. "And it's often not the best choice."

In fact, a Consumer Reports survey reveals 20% of those regularly taking a prescription medication have requested a drug they had seen or heard advertised.

The majority-67%-say their doctor did prescribe it.

"Another problem is the newest drugs being advertised may not be the safest." said Dr. John Santa of Consumer Reports.

Take the painkiller Vioxx, for instance. In the year 2000, Merck spent more than $160 million dollars advertising it.

The ads ran even after concerns were raised linking Vioxx with heart problems. Merck ultimately pulled Vioxx from the market in 2004.

"People don't realize the FDA rarely reviews drug ads before they air." said Kopf Hirsh. "And months, even years, can go by while safety questions are being looked into."

The best advice--resist the urge to ask your doctor for specific medication.

Older, less-advertised drugs have a longer safety and efficiency record, and will often cost you less.

The untied states is one of only two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer drug advertising.

The other is New Zealand.

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