Should Pharmaceutical Ads be Banned from TV?

Do you have restless leg syndrome? Erectile dysfunction? Skimpy eyelashes? No matter what you have, or suspect you have, there’s a pill for you. I saw it on television.

Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, stroke, heart attack, diarrhea, and in rare instances, death… 

… the dizzying list of side effects has become so lengthy and repetitious that we tune them out.

“If you think you may have (disease of choice), ask your doctor about (latest pill).” Rather than advise that you seek diagnosis and consider all treatment options, you are directed to request a particular prescription. Sometimes it’s every day folks urging us on, sometimes it’s a celebrity endorsement — none so surprising as Brooke Shields telling us about the pill that will give us longer, fuller lashes. Seriously.

Pharmaceutical companies are playing into every fear and every illness, real and imagined, as never before. Why market only to doctors when you can reach the patient — the consumer — directly. The number of pharmaceutical ads in prime time television has risen so dramatically that they are all but impossible to ignore. Whatever ails you, there’s a pill to make you feel better.

That’s not to say that all prescription medications are bad, or that patients should not have access to information. But the constant bombardment of ads telling us that the answer is in a pill is escalating our penchant for pill-popping hypochondria. Especially vulnerable are the young children who are indoctrinated into this mindset. 

Currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means, H. R. 2966, also known as the “Say No to Drugs Act,” seeks to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to deny any deduction for direct-to consumer advertisements of prescription drugs.

Attacking from another front, H.R.2175, known as the “Families for ED Advertising Decency Act,” was introduced to prohibit as indecent the broadcasting of any advertisement for a medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, and for other purposes. This bill, currently in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, would not allow such advertising on radio or television on any day between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. 

It’s a beginning. As we delve ever-deeper into the details of major health care reform, this is one issue that should not be overlooked. Not every condition requires a prescription and sometimes the potential side-effects are not worth the potential benefits. Not to mention the tremendous cost to the consumer in the form of co-pays and premiums. After all, someone’s got to pay for all that advertising.

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Madiha F.
Madiha F.1 years ago

These ads are making people confuses that what medicine is right for them. they watch these ads and change their medications. when they use new medications without knowing it has many side effects.

Tom D.
Tom D2 years ago

My head is spinning from all the side effects, I feel as I am being bombarded by all this medical jargon. Leave it up to the doctors and medical professionals to tell me about the drugs. Give me a little peace of mind for my long days work. All I want I just want some freaking TV without a visit to the doctor.

Claire K.
Claire K5 years ago

On the other hand, think how much less our perscription meds would cost if drug companies were not paying tooth and nail for advertising time? hmmmmmmm. I think they would cost allot less. The pharmacutical companies "claim" our perscriptions cost so much because they need money for creating and testing new pills.... hmmmmmmmm. Why the heck not put all that advertising money into creating and testing new medications....or perhaps a cure for cancer, etc. ??? hmmmmmmmmm what a concept...

Claire K.
Claire K5 years ago

I am perplexed by this issue. As much as I personally HATE hearing these ads on TV over and over ad nauseum, at least they are forced to acknowledge the negative side effects and/or even possible death. If we were not bombarded with this info, many would go to their doctor and take what ever the doctor told them to take, with some not reading or unable to read and understand the packaged info and disclaimers.

Heidi M.
Heidi M6 years ago

All a part of the "business". The sicker we think we are, the greater control Big Brother has over us. And the ads! The other day I saw a birth control ad. It talked little about being for birth control and concentrated on how it cleared up acne and you'd no longer have a period! So much for what nature intended. And, as a people, we're conned into believing we need this. And what about all those ED commercials? Don't most of those guys seem kind of young? And so you're not a stud 24/7. Most of a relationship is mental anyway. Or should be. And Cialis, what's with the two bathtubs anyway????

Past Member
Past Member 7 years ago

We are being manipulated by the pharmaceutical companies with their fear-raising tv ads. If we, as a society are in a state of wellness, that don't profit. Good Lord, they even have a drug to make your eyelashes longer! Every drug has potential side effects and are taxing on anyone's liver. Cigarette commercials have been banned for years and so should drug ads. Cigarette companies have been scrutinized and held accountable over recent years for their vile tactics and so should the pharmaceutical companies.

Susan Hendler
Susan Hendler8 years ago

I am an RN and have worked in MD offices many years. If I had the power, I would get rid of all medication samples and not allow pharm reps through the door!! Even MDs who don't accept gifts still tend to reach for the samples at hand rather than spending the time to see what is cheaper and stilll effective (often with fewer side effects!!)
Instead, as mentioned in this article, there should be unbiased educational literature disseminated to medical practitioners on a regular basis and they should be responsible to keep abreast of this info.

Monica K.
Monica K8 years ago

I had an experience with a doctor who prescribed 2 different brands of drugs from the same drug family, thus doubling the amount of drug I was taking. She never even looked them up, but simply went by what the drug company salesman told her ( he was in her office every time I went there with his cartons of samples and freebies). Luckily, I look up every drug I'm given before I take it, because this was a seriously dangerous medication. I think all advertising for drugs should be banned and drug company salesmen and freebies should be regulated! Gee, maybe the cost of drugs would come down and there would be fewer deaths from overdoses and "drug reactions"!

Marilyn K.
Marilyn K8 years ago

If you are satisfied with your physician then depend on him to prescribe and describe any drug that you should be using for a condition that you are dealing with. Please do not turn to or allow television ads to persuade you to pressure your doctor into prescribing it for you as you may have dire consequences.

Wini A.
Wini A8 years ago

As a registered nurse, I am continually appalled at the drug ads that I see on TV. Patients demanding drugs from their doctors may not be happening in large numbers but, the fact is, there may be less expensive generics that do the same thing as the new drug or there may be another brand or another drug that may what is indicated.

Also, I'm very glad that the FDA has mandated that Big Pharma has to tell the viewers the drug's side-effects. However, most of the side-effect information is given in a way may meet the letter of the regulation but, IMHO, does really meet the spirit of it. The information is often given sotto voce or is spoken very quickly or is in very fine print at the bottom of the TV screen. In addition, some of the information is inaccurate. Just one example are the ads for statin drugs, given to reduce cholesterol among other uses. The side-effect information says that people with liver disease should have blood tests to check on the status of their liver function. What the ad doesn't mention is that statins can raise certain enzymes in the liver of perfectly healthy people which, if a mild rise, may not be a problem. However, permanent liver damage may occur if liver function tests aren't done a regular basis to check for liver status. It is, at the least, disingenuous to say that only those with liver damage need liver function tests. At the worst, it is life-threatening. I've noticed other errors and omissions like these and I strongly believe