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Advertising Ethics

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The age of advertising today is not what it used to be years ago. Pharmaceutical companies are spending on average billions of dollars to market their drugs directly to the consumers. With this comes a potential harm to some consumers due to the fact that they feel like they are free to ask for anything that may stop the symptoms they have. Should the FDA take a stand in putting a stop to how certain drugs are marketed, or just continue to let it get out of control? Who should be able to control the prescriptions: the patient or the doctor?
Take the drug Prozac for our first example: it’s in rock lyrics, magazines, books and billboards. I don’t think there are too many people who have not heard of it or that in some point of their lives were not on it. Many parents are turning to their children’s doctor to put them on it because of problems they may be having at home.
In an article from The Economist I found that it is illegal in Europe to advertise prescription drugs. They are allowed to market they’re over the counter drugs but an advertisement for a prescription drug can only be found in

medical journals. It was felt that advertising prescriptions filled the heads of consumers and it could undermine the doctor’s authority.
Lilly Pharmaceutical company did a two page spread on Prozac that had one page with a dark rainy sky with the words “Depression Hurts” and on the other side was a bright sunny sky with the words “Prozac can help”.(Vol.344) Prozac may be good for some people but for others it may not be the drug they need, and because of ads like that they feel the need to pressure their physician for a prescription for it. Can it really help put sunny days back into a miserable life?
America has allowed direct to consumer advertising for over a decade now but to date there have been no claims that anyone has been hurt by it. In television ads the companies are prepared to pay the cost that it takes to tell the consumer to talk to their doctor if they have any of the symptoms listed and they must also give a brief run down on some of the possible side effects.
Most drug manufacturers tend to argue that raising awareness of certain diseases helps to achieve an overall improvement in public health. “Lilly...

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...now that I am guilty myself of seeing ads on television or in magazines that make me wonder whether or not I need to be on it. Of course as luck would have it, when Lilly launched their drug Sarafem which is a drug to treat premenstrual disforic disorder or PMDD, I did seek the advice of my doctor just in part to the symptoms they listed. This is something that I suffered with for years and blamed it on my birth-control pills. Yes, I had those days when I looked in the mirror and wondered who was looking at me. Irritability, hateful attitude, you name it I experienced it so I thank Lilly for their advertisement.
Even though the FDA does what they can to regulate drugs and their contents, I don’t know if we can blame them for the advertising that takes place with these companies. Maybe the U.S. needs to head up their own DTCA committee to help protect consumers from diagnosing themselves and not leaving it up to the doctors to do their jobs.

Bibliography

The Medical Post, September 15, 1998 issue.
The Medical Post, May 22, 2001 issue, Vol. 34
The Medical Post, November 24, 1999 issue, Vol. 35.
The Economist, August 9, 1997 issue, Vol. 344
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