At Issue: Prescription drugs

Those prescription-drug ads you've gotten used to on television and in magazines (such as SHAPE) may not be around much longer if some lawmakers have their way. These advertisements, which often suggest that readers or viewers ask their doctors about a given product, actually have been legal in the United States since 1985, but they really took off - especially on TV - when standards were relaxed in 1997. While critics claim the ads cause patients to pressure their doctors for brand-name medications, the pharmaceutical companies say they actually educate patients about medical conditions and treatments. (By law, magazine ads contain a great deal of information about the drugs, including precautions and possible side effects.) Critics also maintain that ad spending raises drug prices, while manufacturers say prices reflect development costs.

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