Last week, the New York Times hosted a “Room for Debate” discussion on prescription drug ads that focused on whether these ads harm consumers or serve as educational resource. Participants included medicine/public health and advertising/marketing experts, science/medicine authors, and drug company critics.
For context, check out this ad for a drug for restless leg syndrome:
Notice the warning about how the medication can cause “new or increased gambling, sexual, or other increased urges”? Really makes you want to try the drug, huh?
Also check out this ad for “Latisse,” a prescription drug for “eyelash hypotrichosis,” which is… get this… when you think your eyelashes are too thin and light. The product, advertised in medical-sounding language, attempts to convince women that this is a real defect that requires prescription therapy.
A recent Times piece on these ads calls this “inadequacy mongering.”
The “Room for Debate” article notes that some lawmakers would like to further regulate direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads, especially when drugs have been newly released. According to a follow-up article on the initial debate, many NY Times readers agree: “Of the more than 300 comments the forum generated … the overwhelming majority would like to see these ads altered or banned altogether.” The article includes excerpts of the relevant reader comments.
For further reading, check out this earlier post on the topic of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.