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Television drug ads are filled with vivid images of people living their best lives, all thanks to a new drug they've been prescribed.
But drugs advertised on TV often have little to no benefit by comparison. with other treatments, according to a new study recently published online in the JAMA Network Open.
Less than one-third of the drugs commonly advertised in the United States are top-rated first-line drugs based on regulatory reviews from three different health agencies, the researchers said.
In addition, the results showed that drug advertising categorized as “of little use” accounted for nearly $16 billion of the $22 billion spent on television advertising during the six-year study period.
“Proponents of direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals often argue that these advertisements are of great public health importance because they encourage the use of the most therapeutically beneficial treatments. Our research refutes this argument”, — said lead researcher Niraj Patel, a medical student at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
“Together with other studies, our results show that pharmaceutical companies focus their advertising campaigns on expensive, brand-name drugs that have little or no comparative benefit compared to existing alternatives,” — Patel added.
Those billions spent on advertising are paying off for drug makers.
Television advertisements for drugs reach a wide range of Americans and encourage a significant number of people to ask their doctor about this or that. medicine, as the non-profit organization Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) discovered.
According to a 2018 KFF survey, nearly three in four Americans (72%) say they have seen or heard an advertisement for a prescription drug.
One in seven people said they spoke to their doctor after seeing an advertisement for a drug, and more than half of them (55%) received a prescription for the advertised drug.
For the new study, Patel and colleagues collected monthly lists of the most advertised drugs in the US from the industry publication FiercePharma. The data ran from September 2015 to August 2021.
Of the most advertised drugs, about 32% affect the immune system for the treatment of a wide range of diseases — from arthritis, psoriasis and ulcerative colitis to severe autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Another 16% of the drugs affected the digestive system and metabolism to treat diseases such as diabetes, and about 14% were drugs for the treatment of mental conditions and mood disorders.
The researchers then obtained therapeutic value ratings for each drug from the Canadian, French, and German health agencies.
moderate therapeutic value compared to available alternatives”, — Patel said.
On the other hand, “ineffective” the drug will be used primarily as a fallback option if more effective treatments don't work for a particular patient, he added.
value. But only 20 (27%) of the 73 were rated by any agency as having high therapeutic value, the researchers found.
The researchers said these highly rated drugs accounted for only about a quarter (6 billion dollars) of advertising spending during this period, while the rest of the advertising dollars was spent on advertising drugs with more questionable effectiveness.
This does not mean that advertised drugs are necessarily harmful or should be avoided, Patel said. . One explanation for this could be that drugs with high clinical value probably don't need much publicity because they are probably already recognized and prescribed without further publicity.
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