Should Drug Ads Be Banned From Television?

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Should Drug Ads Be Banned From Television?

Last spring, a poll was released showing that the majority of Americans would like to see prescription drug ads banned from television. You know the ones – the lengthy commercials that usually “ask your doctor about ”

There are a few arguments for and against such an action. Advocates for banning say that they encourage potential patients to ask for costlier drugs than appropriate, or drugs that they may not need. Also, they claim that these expensive marketing campaigns are driving up the prices of the drugs themselves.

Proponents of drug ads respond by stating they help patients make more informed decisions.

After digesting those arguments, 57% of persons who responded said they supported the idea of disallowing prescription drug ads from television. Conversely, 39% opposed a ban.

There’s a reason for the interest – back in November, 2015, the American Medical Association called for such a ban, which would include ads for both prescription drugs and medical devices. Indeed, they cited concern about drug prices escalating, combined with the fact that cheaper drugs are usually just as effective. Also, they pointed out that the U.S. And New Zealand are the only countries in the world which permit this type of drug advertising.

In addition, the poll revealed only 7% of respondents actually considered taking a prescription medication they had seen on television in the past year.

I might offer, Big Pharma also receives tax deductions based on their advertising expenditures. According to market research, expenditures on drug ads has increased by 30% since 2013 ($4.5 billion.) In June, the AMA voted at their annual meeting on this very issue. While many wanted to have the tax incentives removed, the proposal was ultimately rejected.

And although they have placed pressure on the Federal Drug Administration, the AMA does not the the power to ban these ads (only the FDA can do that.) Currently, the FDA defends the rights of pharmaceutical companies, citing freedom of speech issues, as long as the advertisements aren’t false or misleading.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, was ordered to pay $600 million in fines for misleading the public about the addictive nature of the drug. The problem was, it took years for the FDA to catch up with Purdue Pharma’s deceptive advertising practices. By then, the damage had already been done.

You can read more about the argument for and against banning prescription drug ads at

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A. Psychology

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