Big Pharma’s Direct-to-Consumer Marketing is a Public Health Issue Essay

Big Pharma’s Direct-to-Consumer Marketing is a Public Health Issue Essay

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Television, radio, and billboard advertisements for pharmaceuticals are commonplace in today’s society. Nonetheless, the debate concerning Big Pharma’s direct-to-consumer marketing ploy takes place in the realm of medicine, business, and certainly public health. Each party utilizes tactics that rests on various points on the spectrum of coercion, thus having different expectations of the role governmental authorities. One shared commonality, however, is the focus on the consumer’s rights and liberties. Through ethical and human rights perspectives, it is possible to dissect three philosophies used to leverage current day practices of pharmaceutical companies, American consumers, and public health professionals. Based on ethical and human rights lenses, the field of public health urges the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enforce strict regulations in the way medication is marketed, if not severely limit the number of ads being produced.
Drugs are marketed effectively by presenting broad, non-specific symptoms, which can be remedied by a certain medication. Additionally, the side effects—which sometimes sound worse than the symptoms themselves—are listed in small print or are quickly mentioned at the end of the advertisement. This current practice of advertising presents the material in a way that leads the consumer to buy a certain medication or seek a prescription, which parallels Cass Sunstein’s ideas of structured choice (Sunstein and Thaler, 2008). Other instances of this strategy are typically seen in supermarkets where healthier food choices are at the front of the store in attempt to “nudge” the consumer to choose healthier foods. Relative to the consumer, Sunstein’s view is low on the spectru...


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