You’ve seen the ads for prescription drugs everywhere–you can’t go online, watch TV, listen to the radio or open a magazine without seeing them. Do you ever wonder why Big Pharma would target the consumer with ads for prescription drugs that only doctors can dispense? The American Medical Association wonders that too. In fact, the AMA called for banning direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs, reported the Associated Press on Nov. 18. The AMA drug ads ban urges legislation to nix consumer targeted prescription drugs ads to cut costs. AMA delegates at the group policy-making meeting in Atlanta voted to make the AMA drug ads ban official policy, to make prescription drugs more affordable. The AMA drug ads ban looks to check Big Pharma inflating costs on prescription drugs and medical devices and hopefully curtail patient demands for inappropriate treatment.
The AMA drug ads ban vote reflected a growing concerns among physicians on the many negative impacts of commercially promoting prescription drugs. Doctors felt such advertising played a part in driving drug costs up. The pharmaceutical industry spends a staggering $4.5 billion dollars a year to advertise drugs. That’s a 30 percent increase in just two years. And Big Pharma must be getting a good return on those ad dollars. Drug costs have risen 5 percent in 2015 alone.
But beyond the increased costs are other dangers. Big Pharma encourages people to self-diagnose, go above medical wisdom, pester their doctors to write prescriptions and effectively self-medicate. An especially worrisome area is prescription painkillers but it doesn’t stop there. Marketing drugs commercially to the consumer, as if they were over-the-counter remedies sends the wrong message. There is a reason drugs are available only with a doctor’s prescription–they are controlled substances that should only be dispensed by a qualified medical professional.
People certainly can self-diagnose and treat themselves with OTC and herbal remedies. But the average person probably isn’t qualified to determine what drug is right for him. That’s especially true if the person is a hypochondriac, an addict or is looking to sell prescription drugs on the black market. People go to doctors for advice and treatment of medical conditions that they can’t control themselves. So why then would Big Pharma target the consumer as if he was a doctor? It’s all about money. And that’s what the point of the AMA drug ads ban–to put the prescribing of medicine in the hands of people trained to do it. But an AMA ban alone won’t do it. It requires congressional lobbying to get a moratorium on prescriptions drugs advertising.