Are Drug Commercials Bad For Your Health?

A new study in the current issue of Annals of Family Medicine suggests that certain types of big pharma advertising may be bad for us. The researchers studied big pharma ads shown during evening news programs, examining them for “factual claims they make about the target condition, how they attempt to appeal to consumers, and how they portray the medication and lifestyle behaviors in the lives of ad characters.” What did they find? From the report:

“Most ads (82%) made some factual claims and made rational arguments (86%) for product use, but few described condition causes (26%), risk factors (26%), or prevalence (25%). Emotional appeals were almost universal (95%). No ads mentioned lifestyle change as an alternative to products, though some (19%) portrayed it as an adjunct to medication. Some ads (18%) portrayed lifestyle changes as insufficient for controlling a condition. The ads often framed medication use in terms of losing (58%) and regaining control (85%) over some aspect of life and as engendering social approval (78%). Products were frequently (58%) portrayed as a medical breakthrough.”

The researchers determined that big pharma advertisements don’t provide much factual information and Instead, rely on “characters that have lost control over their social, emotional, or physical lives without the medication.” We’re not scientists or anything, but we’ve noticed this too. —MEGHANN MARCO

Another Reason Not To Watch Drug Commercials