Is it just me, or is anyone else getting sick of being bombarded with prescription drug ads on TV? It has been reported that prescription drug companies spent $4.5 on TV ads in 2014, with that figure expected to top $5 Billion in 2015. From toenail fungus to erectile dysfunction, it just never ends. And then there are those obligatory recitals of side effects in fine print or rapid fire speech intended to take advertisers off the hook from any legal challenges to the safety or actual efficacy of these drugs.
The tactics of targeting the general population with these ads implies that consumers are capable of making their own decisions about prescription drug choices. Oh but then, they say “talk to your doctor about….” Has anyone tried to get an actual doctor on the phone lately to have a discussion about prescription drugs? With any luck, you may reach an assistant, and with a little more luck, you may get a return call in a day or two asking you to make an appointment, which will probably be a month from now.
And then there are those annoying E.D. (Erectile Dysfunction) ads. Two out of the top four advertisers on television are Eli Lilly and Pfizer hawking their Cialis and Viagra products during the timeout commercials of major sporting events. The spending of just these two companies on these products alone accounts for over ten percent of all prescription drug ads on TV. Has anyone else had to field a question from their 8 year old grandson about why you should ask your doctor if “Viagra is right for you?”
Without a doubt, prescription drugs have improved the quality of life for many people, present company included. But they are powerful tools that are often abused. Targeting drug ads to general audiences promotes the possibility of over medicating or improperly medicating a variety of health issues. Advertising prescription drugs should be targeted only to physicians and health care providers who are much more qualified to assess the medical needs of individuals and prescribe the appropriate medical treatment. That treatment, more often than not, may be a generic equivalent drug at a fraction of the price of the brand name versions.
So, the next time you see one of those pervasive ads with the tanned and toned middle-aged couple happily bouncing out of their golf cart or lounging in separate bathtubs on the beach as a backdrop to the latest and greatest drug claim, think about what is really going on here. It is a money battle being waged by the drug companies to coerce you, me and the health insurers to accept the confiscatory pricing of brand name drugs in this country.
What ever happened to “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh What a Relief it is?” I apologize to all of the Millennials that have no idea what that means. Alka Seltzer 60’s Commercial