¶ … direct to consumer (DTC) advertising of drugs considered ethical? What facts could be supplied to help you make your decision?
On the one hand, the argument can be convincingly made that providing consumers with as much information as possible concerning the pharmacological solutions that are available to them just makes good sense. Innovations in pharmacological technological continue to introduce new formulations every day and many healthcare consumers may not know what is available to treat their conditions. Indeed, healthcare consumers are in the best position to know what ails them, but they may not know what new medicines are available to treat their conditions due to a basic lack of knowledge.
On the other hand, though, critics of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of drugs characterize many of these preparations as so many “sex toys” that are not used to treat real conditions. Critics argue that DTC advertising promotes unnecessary drug use, increase the incidence of the side effects that are a concomitant of this increased drug use, and that the practice has a number of other adverse outcomes that include an overall increased reliance on drugs to the exclusion of healthier alternatives, exploit vulnerable populations, and contribute to the diminution of the traditional therapeutic relationship that has existed between physicians and their patients.
What ethical issues should be considered when marketing prescription drugs?
In order to formulate informed views concerning what ethical issues are involved in marketing prescription drugs, it is important to know what population is being targeted and for what conditions the drugs are being promoted. There may be a very fine ethical line between marketing drugs with known efficacy but with significant side effects and marketing alternatives with less efficacy but fewer side effects.
It is also important to identify to what extent such advertisements play on human emotions to evoke positive purchase decisions. Other ethical issues would include the extent to which such DTC advertising encourages consumers to circumvent the physician-patient relationship. In other words, to the extent that such DTC advertising encourages “drug-shopping” behaviors among healthcare consumers is likely the extent to which such advertising could be regarded as unethical.
Most sick people are scared, many are in pain, and some of them may grasp at any claims from marketers concerning a potential cure. Conversely, denying these very same healthcare consumers with as much information about the current choices that are available to them also appears to be unethical, assuming that the targeted populations are in a position to make informed decisions.
What are the costs and benefits of marketing prescription drugs directly to physicians?
The costs of marketing prescription drugs directly to physicians include the potential prescribing of marketed drugs to the exclusion of other drugs with comparable qualities, or to the exclusion of alternative medicine therapies that carry no discernible side effects. Providing physicians with free samples of medicines certainly encourages their use, and some healthcare consumers may end up taking drugs they do not really need and experience the adverse side effects of these drugs as a result. The benefits of marketing prescription drugs directly to physicians are the increased competition and efficiency of the pharmaceutical industry that can result.
Advertising prescription drugs. (n.d.). Decision point, 335.
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