Drug ads drive up prices, offer no clear benefits

Keywords Opinion

In reference to Tony Cox’s column on the proposed AMA ban on direct-to-consumer advertising, I would like to offer another opinion based on my experience as a practicing primary care physician for over 40 years [AMA offers misdiagnosis with drug ad ban, IBJ, Dec. 28].

He claims only one out of 20 patients mention specific drug names during patient visits. I would suggest that it is closer to 50 percent, particularly when the advertising mentions free drug trials.

He claims 80 percent of pharma marketing budgets are focused on promotions to physicians, implying this money is totally paid to physicians. Don’t think so, especially since the dollars paid to physicians for specific issues are now made part of the public record.

Maybe he needs to have a talk with real doctors.

I would suggest that pharmaceutical companies have shelled out those millions over the years to support bloated sales forces which physicians have repeatedly and increasingly denied access to in their offices.

Finally, he might want to look into research done a few years ago comparing total pharmacy costs, especially when a new drug was being launched, between Canada (which does not allow direct-to-consumer advertising) and the U.S. The study showed a tremendous jump in total pharmacy costs in the U.S., often with no proven benefit or superiority over already available medicines.

Mr. Cox also failed to point out that we are only one of very few countries in the world that allow DTC.

And if he wants to complain about the free samples many of us have in our offices, then the next time he is diagnosed with some chronic illness like hypertension or diabetes or lipid disorder or heart disease, I would be happy to say to him, “Here, go get this prescription filled for 30 days and pay full price and let me know if it works or if you have side effects.”

Most of my patients are grateful to be able to try something for free for three to four weeks to see if it works before spending their money.

Just my 2 cents!

Dr. Jeffrey H. Ferguson
Diagnostic Medicine Carmel

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