Hi everyone, my name is Meghana Kankipati. I am a business major on the Pre-Med track at UNC-Chapel Hill. The title of my presentation is the Upsides of Pharmaceutical Drug Advertisements.
In the United States, pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise prescription drugs directly to consumers. Drug abuse, specifically with prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyCotin, has been on the rise in the past years in North Carolina. This brings up the conversation about whether advertising prescription drugs directly to consumers is ethical. Many studies and journals address the ethical concerns about prescription drug advertisements however, in this presentation, I will explore how prescription drug advertisements may have beneficial impacts on consumers because they can be informative and allow the consumer to have back their power of medicine.
In today’s day and age social media is a huge component of our everyday lives. We use it to communicate across the whole world, which is revolutionary, however, it comes with downsides. With mass communication, there is plenty of misinformation and when it comes to medical misinformation the effects can be dangerous. For example, the anti-vaxxer movement, a group of people who disagree with the use of vaccines, consists of sentiments like vaccines cause autism or that getting more than one vaccine is harmful (Kandola 2020). This movement grew even more during the Trump administration which caused vaccination rates in more than 26 states in the U.S. to fall below 95% in 2018 (Kandola 2020). People are risking their health, all because of misinformation.
Pharmaceutical opioid usage has been very prevalent across the United States, particularly in North Carolina. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study about the high-risk counties across the United States, “high-risk” defined as counties that are on the path to having an opioid crisis. Out of the 412 counties considered as “high-risk” in study 41 were of the 100 counties of North Carolina. This means that 10% of the high-risk counties in the study are in North Carolina and 41% of North Carolina’s counties are considered to be “high-risk” to opioid usage (Duong 2019). The study showed that the regions that are considered to be “high-risk” have the common characteristics of fewer primary care physicians and fewer people with high school education. This goes to show that by being more informed one is able to make more logical decisions (Duong, 2019).
Prescription drug advertisements can educate and inform the public which decreases the amount of misinformation that the public may be exposed to. The FDA conducted a survey of 500 physicians about prescription drug advertisements and the results suggested that physicians think that prescription drug advertisements can improve a consumer’s knowledge about possible treatments (Limbu, 2005, p.437). Physicians interact with their patients firsthand, so they are able to see the change in behavior of patients who are exposed to drug advertisements, and they noticed that they were asking informed questions, which only works for the benefit of the patient.
According to Isabell Koenig, pharmaceutical advertisements can actually be a source of empowerment for consumers. Dr. Koenig identifies that pharmaceutical drug advertisements can be considered a form of health communication (Koenig, 2015, p.16). It is important that the United States has proper health communication because of the heavy mistrust between BIPOC people and the United States medical system. Acts like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which was an unethical study of observing the “natural path of syphilis” in black males where 399 of the 600 males in the study were given untreated syphilis without being told this information (Brown 2017). This experiment has caused generations of mistrust, so it is important to rebuild this relationship by giving consumers access to more information and this can be achieved through pharmaceutical drug advertisements.
A nationwide study conducted by Prevention Magazine in partnership with the FDA produced results that suggested about 53 million consumers of prescription drug advertisements talked to their physicians about medicine that they had seen advertised (Limbu 2005 p.437). In the same study, 21.2 million consumers after seeing a pharmaceutical advertisement felt encouraged to talk to their medical provider about a medical condition which they had previously never talked about to any medical personnel before. This shows consumers are using these advertisements to better their knowledge about treatments and also advocate for themselves.
With the said benefits of exposing consumers to pharmaceutical drug advertisements, these benefits only exist as long as pharmaceutical companies abide by the rules and requirements that the FDA has set in place. In order to make sure that consumers are not harmed by pharmaceutical drug advertisements it is imperative that consumers use the knowledge that they are presented and get second, even third, opinions from healthcare personnel before committing to any treatments. Pharmaceutical drug advertisements are not meant to be the final solution they are meant to be a stepping stone to better inform consumers and to give them the confidence to take control over their own medicine.
Brown, D. (2017). “You’ve Got Bad Blood”: The Horror of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. The Washington Post; The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retrop olis/wp/2017/05/16/youve-got-bad-blood-the-horror-of-the-tuskegee-syphilis-experiment/
Duong, Y. (2019). Forty-One N.C. Counties Classified as “High-Risk” in New Opioid Study. North Carolina Health News; N.C. Health News. https://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2019/07/23/41-nc-high-risk-medication-assisted-treatment/
Kandola, A. (2020). What is an Anti-Vaxxer?. Medical News Today; Medical News Today Newsletter. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/anti-vaxxer
Koinig, I. (2016). Pharmaceutical advertising as a source of consumer self-empowerment. Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/https://doi-org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/10.1007/978-3-658-13134-0
Limbu, Y. B. (2005). Prescription Drug Advertising: Pros, Cons, and Avenues for Future Research. New Mexico State University, Department of Marketing, 436-447.
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