A Prescription for Profit
In 2007, the pharmaceutical industry spent approximately $4.8 billion dollars a year advertising prescription drugs directly to the public (ProCon.org 2005). A study by two York University researchers estimates the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends nearly twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development (York University, 2008). Why do they spend so much money marketing to the consumer? The simple answer is profit. Like any other business pharmaceutical companies are out to sell a product and make money. The primary concern of the pharmaceutical industry is not the welfare of the consumer but convincing them to take their drug. In order to eliminate this conflict of interest the pharmaceutical industry should be banned from directly marketing their products to the consumer.
Direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs has been legal in the United States since 1985, but exploded in 1997 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed the rules regarding disclosure of side-effects in infomercials (Calfee, 2002). Since that time the industry has spent over 5 million dollars annually to market their merchandise under the noble guise of promoting health and increasing public awareness (Angell, 2005). How do they achieve this awareness? This awareness is created by utilizing slick sales tactics and manipulation to grab the consumer’s attention and generate interest for drugs that may be unnecessary or even harmful.
Advocates of pharmaceutical advertising contend that these commercials perform a public service by educating consumers regarding medical conditions and the drugs that treat these conditions (Auton, 2004). In reality, these commercials create false impressions and influence consumers to choose drugs based on the effectiveness of the commercial rather than the effectiveness of the medication. The result of this artificially created demand is higher consumer drug prices in order to offset the cost of the advertising Wilkes, Bell, & Kravitz,...