Agnes I. Vitry, PhD
Potential Conflicts of Interest: None disclosed.
Vitry A.; Does Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising Do More Harm Than Good?. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151:823-824. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-151-11-200912010-00020
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2009;151(11):823-824.
TO THE EDITOR:
Schwartz and colleagues (1) found that including drug facts boxes in direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs improved consumers' knowledge of drug benefits and harms. Although this seems laudable, I have several concerns. First, the drug facts box may give more legitimacy to DTCA but is unlikely to counteract the negative effects, increasing the medicalization of everyday life and the neglect of lifestyle issues. Including drug facts boxes does not address the issue of pictures and slogans used in advertisements that may convey a misleading message. For example, the picture in the Amcid advertisement used in the study strongly suggests that medicines eliminate the need to change potentially harmful eating habits. Also, DTCA encourages unrealistic beliefs in the therapeutic value of new drugs. Thus, health professionals will still be pressured to prescribe advertised medicines even though alternative treatments or lifestyle changes may be more appropriate for many patients.
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