Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

TV Medicine

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

TV Medicine

Article excerpt

"Primetime Pushers" by Lisa Belkin, in Mother Jones (Mar.-Apr. 2001), 731 Market St., Ste 600, San Francisco, Calif. 94103.

Turn on the TV these days, and you are almost sure to see an ad for Viagra, Prilosec, Lipitor, or a host of other drugs that you cannot buy without a doctor's permission. Critics contend that this isn't a healthy development, reports medical writer Belkin, author of First, Do No Harm (1993).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened the floodgates four years ago, when it eased restrictions on prescription drug ads. Pharmaceutical companies last year spent an estimated $1.7 billion on television ads, more than twice what they spent in 1998. The "direct-to-consumer" advertising "has paid off handsomely" for the drug firms, says Belkin. Pfizer, for instance, "upped consumer advertising for its cholesterol drug, Lipitor, by more than $45 million in 1999, and sales of the drug jumped too--56 percent, to $2.7 billion."

Proponents of the liberalized FDA policy contend that "it creates a more informed patient because viewers see the ads, then have an intelligent give-and-take with a doctor," says Belkin. …

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