Chris Rock once joked about the lure of commercials for prescription ads and how they don't really talk about the health risks involved in taking these medicines but, instead, just list a variety of symptoms to scare you into using them.
"The government doesn't want you to use your drugs, they want you use their drugs. So every night on TV, you see a weird a-- drug commercial trying to get you hooked on some legal [stuff]. And they just keep naming symptoms until they get one that you got."
Hilarious? Yes. An exaggeration? Maybe not. Whether or not you agree with his assessment that the government is behind this practice, there is something off about these ads.
Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that during just a one-month period, about 50 percent of drug ads missed the mark on at least one FDA-regulated rule. They also found that about 30 percent of these ads were leaving out important information from the ads. Even worse, almost half of these commercials failed to list the most serious risks that their medicines pose to patients.
Medpage Today reported that the most common examples of pharmaceutical companies being non-adherent to FDA marketing standards were "misused references to the literature and using graphics in a way that are misleading." Ads were often "possibly" non-adherent because they didn't cite references or overrepresented the experience with the drug.
So how are they getting away this?
Medpage Today also reported that the FDA's division of drug marketing and advertising can’t review every ad that gets published.
There is some good news, though.
Researchers said that, despite the ads that didn't follow the rules, most of the ads they reviewed were up to par. And while the FDA has stepped up their game on tracking these types of "bad ads," the study's researchers have some suggestions for the FDA. Those suggestions include making the FDA's guidelines more straightforward and objective, requiring that ads indicate serious risk factors and health benefits, and that they clearly reveal which demographic and population the drug is intended for.
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