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Pharmaceutical advertising study has patient safety implications

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires drug manufacturers to adhere to strict labeling guidelines. Labels must not only convey truthful information, they also must not omit critical information about potential drug side effects. Although the agency similarly requires manufacturers to adhere to certain information-related safety standards when advertising their products, a recent study indicates that drug-related television commercials often convey misleading and/or false claims.

The study’s author is a fellow at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. In creating the study, she also collaborated with experts from the University of Wisconsin. Together, they evaluated 84 drug commercials broadcast between 2008 and 2010 on the major networks of ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC.

Of those commercials studied, three in five drug commercials for over the counter products boasted either misleading or false information. More than half of prescription drug commercials conveyed similarly misleading or false information.

Until the FDA enforces existing rules more consistently or cracks down on advertising half-truths, patients should be wary of drug-related television advertisements. Because unfortunately, manufacturers are quick to make potentially unsafe products look as appealing as possible, even at the expense of patient safety.

When it comes to educating the public about drug safety, neither omissions nor exaggerations should be permitted in advertising. Patients often seek out products based on information conveyed through advertising. This study indicates that patients should not be so quick to do so. When wondering what products to purchase, patients should consult their physicians, not drug-related television advertising.

Source: Medical Daily, “Most Drug Commercials False Or Misleading: Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Deemed ‘Repeat Offenders’,” Chris Weller, Sep. 30, 2013

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