Drug Marketing

Direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs should be prohibited.

Pharmaceutical advertising does not promote public health. It increases the cost of drugs and the number of unnecessary prescriptions, which is expensive to taxpayers, and can be harmful or deadly to patients.

For more than half a century, certain drugs have been available to patients only with a prescription, because all drugs, including those that can heal, can also cause harm. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals have the necessary training and experience to help them decide whether drugs are indicated in particular cases. This is why they make the prescription decision, not patients.

Prescription drug advertising pressures health professionals to prescribe particular medications, and often the ones that may be less effective and more expensive and dangerous. This intrudes in the relationship between medical professionals and patients, and disrupts the therapeutic process. It takes up valuable time to explain to patients why they may have been misled by the drug advertisements they have seen.

Prescription drug advertising is not educational. It is inherently misleading because it features emotive imagery and omits crucial information about drugs and their proper use, as well as about side effects and contraindications that can be found on the full FDA-approved label. Drug companies have an inherent and irredeemable financial conflict-of-interest which drives them to exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative qualities of their own products.

At a minimum, direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising should not exist unless accompanied by the full FDA-approved label. Nor should drug ads be allowed to display imagery that is primarily emotive and not educational. Drug ads on TV and radio should be prohibited because they cannot meet this standard for truthfulness.

More Information

News Releases

Removal of Consumer Advocate From Dec. 8 Advisory Committee Meeting Is Bad Policy
Sidney Wolfe | December 6th, 2011

Letter on Regulation of Direct-to-Consumer Marketing
Sidney Wolfe and Joan Levin | June 28th, 2010

Article in JLME: DTC Advertising Harms Patients and Should Be Tightly Regulated
Peter Lurie | September 2nd, 2009

39 Health & Seniors Groups Call on Congress to End to DTC Prescription Drug Ads
Gary Ruskin | May 24th, 2006

StopDrugAds.org: A New Website Against DTC Prescription Drug Advertising
Gary Ruskin | January 23rd, 2006

200+ Medical School Professors Call for End to DTC Prescription Drug Ads
Gary Ruskin | October 27th, 2005

PhRMA’s New Ad Policy is “Craven Self-Preservation,” Says Commercial Alert
Gary Ruskin | August 2nd, 2005

Keep Drug-Sponsored Patient Channel Out of Hospitals, Doctors Say
Gary Ruskin | February 25th, 2003

Keep Drug-Sponsored Patient Channel Out of Hospitals, Doctors Say
Gary Ruskin | February 25th, 2003


Testimony at FDA Hearing on DTC Drug Marketing
Gary Ruskin | November 2nd, 2005

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Committee Investigates Ad Tactics for Lipitor
Stephanie Saul | The New York Times | February 8th, 2008

Psst! Wanna buy some snake oil?
Editorial | The Telegram (Canada) | February 8th, 2008

Ad Groups Unfazed by DTC-Drug Debacles
Rich Thomaselli and Ira Teinowitz | Advertising Age | February 4th, 2008

Drug Side Effects Minimized in Commercials, Study Found
UGA Red and Black | January 9th, 2008

US House Panel Says Probing Pfizer Lipitor Ads
Lisa Richwine | Reuters | January 8th, 2008

US FDA Says Effexor Anti-Depressant Ad Misleading
Kim Dixon | Reuters | December 14th, 2007

A Heart Stent Maker Decides the Way to the Patient Is Through the Patient
Barnaby J. Feder | The New York Times | December 5th, 2007

FDA Requests Information on DTC Advertisements for Review Program
FDA News | October 26th, 2007

DTC moratorium out, fines in for Senate PDUFA bill; importation measure checked
Medical Marketing & Media | May 8th, 2007

Drug-Safety Bill Would Limit Direct-to-Consumer Advertising
Associated Press | April 17th, 2007

New Medical-Device Ads; Old Concerns
Brian Steinberg | The Wall Street Journal | April 10th, 2007

Analysis: Prescription Drug Ads Leave Out Risks, Alternatives
Rita Rubin | USA Today | January 30th, 2007

Showdown Looms in Congress Over Drug Advertising on TV
Milt Freudenheim | The New York Times | January 22nd, 2007

Drug Ads Sell a Problem, Not a Solution
Jonathan Rowe | Christian Science Monitor | August 21st, 2006

Drug Firms a Danger to Health - Report
Sarah Boseley | The Guardian (of London) | June 26th, 2006

Marketing the Illness and the Cure?
Rob Stein | Washington Post | May 30th, 2006

Donations Link Drug Firms to Nonprofit Patient Groups
Thomas Ginsberg | Philadelphia Inquirer | May 28th, 2006

Drugs Companies 'Inventing Diseases to Boost Their Profits'
Mark Henderson | The Times (of London) | April 11th, 2006

Professors Speak Out Against Advertising Directly to Consumers
Jeanne Lenzer | British Medical Journal | November 3rd, 2005

New Zealand to Ban DTC Advertising by ‘06
Advertising Age | September 5th, 2005

Drug Firms Seek Ad Remedy
Margaret Webb Pressler | Washington Post | August 3rd, 2005

Web Sites New Twist in Celebrity Drug Ads
Linda A. Johnson | Associated Press | July 17th, 2005

Senate Leader Seeks Moratorium on Ads for New Prescription Drugs
Kathy Kiely | USA Today | June 30th, 2005

Tube Feeding
Vincent P. Bzdek | Washington Post | July 8th, 2003

Patient Channel in hospitals: healthy move? The new TV network says its information is educational. Critics call it manipulative.
Alexandra Marks | Christian Science Monitor | March 19th, 2003

Critics Object to Drug Ads on Hospital Channel
Stephaie Riesenman | Reuters | February 26th, 2003

Patient Channel To Blast Ads At Bedridden
Suzanne Vrancia | Wall Street Journal | September 26th, 2002

Heartfelt Advice, Hefty Fees
Melody Peterson | The New York Times | August 11th, 2002

Drug Ads Hyping Anxiety Make Some Uneasy
Shankar Vedantam | Washington Post | July 16th, 2001

External Links

Influence of Direct to Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising and Patients' Requests on Prescribing Decisions: Two Site Cross Sectional Survey
Barbara Mintzes et al., British Medical Journal | February 2, 2002

ACP/ASIM Policy Statement on Direct to Consumer Advertising for Prescription Drugs
Am. Coll. of Physicians/Am. Soc. Int. Medicine | October 9, 1998

Feminists Challenge Unethical Marketing by Prescription Drug Companies
Judy Norsigian | March, 2001

How Direct to Consumer Advertising Is Putting the Squeeze on Physicians
Phyllis Maguire, ACP/ASIM Observer | March, 1999

Testimony on Direct-to-Consumer Promotion of Prescription Drugs
Cindy Pearson, Nat'l Womens Health Network | October 19, 1995

Providing Presecription Medicine Information to Consumers: Is There a Role for Direct to Consumer Promotion
Health Action International | January 10, 2002

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising -- Education or Emotion Promotion
Sidney M. Wolfe MD, New England J. Medicine | February 14, 2002

Essential Action's page on the FDA and Commercial Speech Protections
Essential Action |

Testimony on Direct to Consumer Advertising
Sidney M. Wolfe MD, Public Citizen | July 24, 2001

Comments on Proposed Food and Drug Administration Survey Entitled FDA: Attitudinal and Behavioral Effects of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs
Public Citizen Health Research Group | September 28, 1998

The Educational Value of Consumer-Targeted Prescription Drug Print Advertising
Robert Bell, Michael Wilkes, Richard Kravitz | December, 2000

FDA Oversight of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising Has Limitations
US General Accounting Office (GAO) | October, 2002

America's Other Drug Problem: How the Drug Industry Distorts Medicine and Politics
Arnold Relman & Marcia Angell, New Republic

Must See TV
Michael Shaw, BAGnews | September 18, 2003

Warning letters to pharmaceutical companies
Food and Drug Administration |

Floor statement on prescription drug advertising
Senator Bill Frist | July 1st, 2005 |