Monday, March 07, 2005

Be honest: you just don't want to listen to the list of side effects

A debate (complete with hand-wringing) over pharmaceutical commercials. TV spots in this category are seldom riveting to watch. Some, in fact, blow. But creative quality has never been a good enough reason to ban an entire product category from advertising. If we agree that patients need to be educated about their own health care and medicines, then I would argue that advertising can play a small part. TV spots for prescription drugs reach people who don't read med journals (who reads med journals?). These spots can even, at times, raise awareness for legitimate medical conditions people might not realize they have or spur someone to seek medical attention who otherwise wouldn't go to a doctor. (How would direct mail reach those people?) Even though you may discount some conditions, these drugs do improve the quality of life for many people.

There is another important factor. Drug companies have invested millions of dollars in developing these drugs. It's crucial that they market and sell the product to recoup their investment, allowing them to re-invest in the development of more drugs. Whether they spend their marketing money wisely or unwisely is another issue. And one that cannot be resolved by banning them from TV.

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