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Direct-to-consumer drug advertisements increasing by drug companies

In a March 19, 2001 publication of the American Medical News appeared articles that tackled the alterations in MD's practices because of drug companies increased advertising of prescription medications straight to the consumers. For years the drug industry predominantly spent all advertising efforts on getting doctors to prescribe their products. However, as of the past several years the drug companies have spent billions of dollars advertising to consumers in an attempt to get consumers to request certain drugs from doctors. Based on the article, in 1999, pharmaceutical companies spent about $1.8 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising. This represented a rise in spending in excess of 1,000% since 1993. This was largely fueled by a boom in television advertising, which increased by more than 4,000% in this period. The numbers represent spending in thousands.

TV ads Print ads
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1993 $24,879 $125,089
1994 $35,738 $229,798
1995 $54,816 $319,525
1996 $219,983 $564,697
1997 $309,584 $740,828
1998 $664,413 $630,387
1999 $1,127,107 $711,602

Based on the National Institute for Health Care Management, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on increasing the effectiveness, efficiency and excellence of America's health care system, probably the most successfully promoted prescription medications represent five categories: antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering agents, gastric acid reducers, oral antihistamines and antihypertensives. What many people might not be conscious of is the fact that drug ads do not need to receive Food and Drug Administration approval. However, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act mandates that all drug advertisements contain, among other things, brief summary information regarding side effects, contraindications and effectiveness. Even though some tout this new wave of advertising as a positive thing, others see it as developing a problem between MDs and their patients. The article sums up this attitude by stating, "As a result, patients ask physicians about drugs they've seen advertised. Sometimes their questions provoke unpleasant confrontations."

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