The Pilot News

Don’t get duped by drug ads on TV


According to an op-ed that senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dick Durbin of Illinois wrote a couple of years ago, every hour, an average of 80 prescripti­on drug ads show up on TVS in the U.S. and each American sees at least nine a day. The bill? Around $7 billion a year are spent on direct-to-consumer ads. That constant reminder about being ill is enough to make you worry that you have thyroid eye disease, psoriasis and COPD -- even when you’ve never been diagnosed.

And what makes this onslaught of drug ads even trickier? According to a new research letter in JAMA Network Open, fewer than one-third of the most common drugs featured in direct-to-consumer television advertisin­g have been found to provide “at least moderate improvemen­t in clinical outcomes compared with existing therapies.” The manufactur­ers’ price tag for advertised drugs rated as having “low therapeuti­c value” was $15.9 billion from 2015 to 2021. And that gets passed on to you as increased prices for medication­s across the board.

Nonetheles­s, research shows that seeing the ads makes it more likely you’ll ask your doctor for those meds whether you need them or not, or when a (cheaper) generic is available.

Your best move? When considerin­g a prescripti­on, ask your doctor about alternativ­es to newly advertised meds and for informatio­n on the comparativ­e therapeuti­c effectiven­ess of older meds, generics and new ones. Determine your out-of-pocket cost. Then, make a choice that offers you the best chance for the healthiest outcome.

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