Chances are you've seen more prescription drug commercials than you can count — Viagra, Cymbalta, Celebrex, and Yaz are just a few that I can name from memory. The ads are pervasive and influential and pharmaceutical companies know that. From 1997 to 2005, drug companies tripled their spending in television ad campaigns from $1.3 billion to $4.2 billion. In 2006 that number bumped up even further to $4.6 billion.
Though the ads do inform consumers of what's available to them, health advocates say they present drugs and symptoms in very general terms and can confuse consumers into thinking they have something they don't. A national study found that one-third of all Americans have asked for a drug they saw on a commercial and of those that asked, 82 percent were given a prescription of some sort.
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It's hard to say without doubt if doctors are over prescribing these drugs but it's one of the concerns that's being raised. Other concerns include patients asking self-diagnosing and ads increasing medical costs and patient risks — the advertised drugs are usually newer with higher costs and less testing, making them more risky.
I can admit to asking about Yaz after seeing the commercials over and over again. It's the top-selling birth control in the United States due in large part to its marketing campaign — a campaign that is now under question as health experts step forward with claims that the drug is unsafe.
Have you ever asked your doctor about a prescription drug because of a commercial you saw? Did you end up taking the drug?