Drug Ads On TV For You And Your Dog

Drug Ads On TV For You And Your Dog


Leonard Zwelling

Does this make you as crazy as it makes me?

Most everything that is advertised on TV can be purchased by the viewers watching (if they haven’t cut the cable and eliminated commercial television completely). There is a striking exception. Drugs. But other than cars and beer, I can think of nothing I see more ads for than for drugs—prescription and non-, for humans and dogs, especially on cable news networks. (Older people must watch these as their grandchildren stream Stranger Things.) This is amazing given that the vast majority of the people watching the ad cannot buy the vast majority of the products without a doctor’s prescription. So, what are the ads for and at whom are they aimed?

They are a push strategy to get the population to demand these high-priced pharmaceuticals from their doctors and veterinarians. Why is this outrageous?

First, as I understand it, only the United States and New Zealand allow such ads to begin with. This would never occur in Europe or Japan.

Second, who would advertise something that the consumer cannot go out and buy? Obviously, it is every maker of every prescription drug for psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves eye disease, tardive dyskinesia for those taking psychoactive drugs, and more psychoactive drugs for those already taking them for depression. What does this say about the state of American medicine? Clearly that the entire population is under-medicated and doctors are not pushing enough drugs on their patients.

Surely, this cannot be true.

I don’t believe for a minute that the majority of the physicians or veterinarians in the country are neglecting the woes of their patients—two- or four-legged—and have denied them access to the latest and greatest in chemical cures.

I have a suggestion. Congress ought to pass a law that anything that is advertised on any media whatsoever must be able to be bought directly by the consumer of the ad. That way, instead of writing a law denying the advertising, which would be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, they are simply saying that an ad must be a real ad not a promotion to an unknowing public to push their doctors and vets to prescribe unnecessary meds.

And while we are at it, what about the ads for over-the-counter meds and supplements that will alter what ails you but cannot be real drugs as they are not FDA regulated thanks to the work of former Senator Orrin Hatch to protect the supplement makers of Utah. The stuff will fix your libido, your knees, and your golf swing but the supplements aren’t regulated drugs. How does that work?

America is probably over medicated and certainly most likely taking way too many expensive prescription drugs (and ineffective supplements) when generics will do although the vast majority of drugs taken by Americans are generics and none of the ones advertised on TV are generic—you can bet on that.

If Congress really wants to do something about the price of prescription drugs this could be a start. The drug companies wouldn’t have to spend any more on ads and doctors won’t be talked into the latest high-priced alternative to a generic cardiac or antihypertensive drug or one to manage type 2 diabetes.

And you can tell who these ads are aimed at, too. They are mostly on news shows or scripted dramas that the older set watch. I think America won’t be happy until everyone over 65 is housed in a retirement community in Florida or in a Home for Mom taking thirteen different prescription drugs along with using Depends, urinary catheters (but not both), and walk-in tubs. No wonder people are willing to pay outrageous prices for streaming services (although Netflix may be on the wane). Anything to get away from these ubiquitous ads.

I try to avoid network TV, but I have to get my Law and Order fix as often as possible. In doing so I am bombarded with ads for drugs for me and for the dog I don’t have. I wish there was a way to stop it. And I thought drug-pushing was illegal. Obviously not if the drug is legal. Let’s outlaw the pushing unless the pushee can actually buy it.

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