DTC Drug Ads High on Emotional Appeals, Low on Substance

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A piece by Cornelia Kean in the May 2007 Pharmacy Practice News quotes ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross on direct-to-consumer drug ads:

"In many cases, the drugs advertised and/or the conditions described in the advertisements are first brought to consumers' attention via this mass marketing," Dr. Ross said via e-mail. "This sort of consumer education is, on balance, a major benefit to the public. Such information is always accompanied by a caveat to 'ask your doctor' for more detailed information, or the ad provides a phone number for such information."

Thus, Dr. Ross took issue with the assertion of Drs. Kessler and Levy that DTC advertising should only be allowed for serious conditions associated with significant morbidity and mortality. "Less severe conditions can still have a major impact on quality of life," he said. "A DTC ad, when done responsibly, lets patients know there are treatments available."

He added that several of the editorialists' criticisms of DTC ads are "false and self-serving." For example, "their suggestion that if a patient comes to a doctor's office having just seen a DTC ad and requests a drug, that their physicians, sheep-like, must therefore write that prescription on demand, without much thought, is just ridiculous."