The concept of advertising pharmaceuticals to the public, primarily through television and print, has undergone a lot of scrutiny in the last few years as opioid addiction has skyrocketed nationwide. But how much of this rise in addiction can actually be attributed to advertising and its effect on public attitudes?
Advertising and Addiction
In the late 1990s, the FDA began to allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise their newest products directly to consumers. This helped shift our cultural idea of pharmaceutical drugs from that of a restricted product to something that was safe and acceptable for the general public.
This idea has been controversial. In fact, the ability to advertise drugs to the general public has been a topic of debate for many years in political and legal circles. Canada is one of several countries who have recently placed further restrictions on advertising any product that contains opioids, for example.
Advertising Behind Closed Doors
It’s not the advertising directly to consumers that has had the biggest impact on addiction, however. Instead, the type of promotion that takes place away from consumers’ eyes often has a bigger influence on the types of addictive drugs that doctors prescribe. Generally, this consists of pharmaceutical companies advertising their products directly to doctors, persuading them to choose newer and often higher dosage medicines for their patients.
Ongoing research into this kind of behind-the-scenes promotion has shown just how pervasive and influential it can be. This year the Harvard Gazette reported that between 1997 and 2016, over $20 billion was spent advertising directly to doctors, compared to the nearly $10 billion spent advertising to consumers.
Know Your Medicine
Because of this behind-the-scenes influence, it’s critical that consumers remain aware of what types of medicines they are being prescribed, as well as their side effects and potential for addiction.
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