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May 25, 2005 | Although direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising was supposed to make the public more knowledgeable about the types of prescription drugs available to them, the result has been to create confusion and influence patients in ways that are counterproductive to their treatment.

Numerous experts and consumer watchdog groups have long contended that slick ads using well known celebrities and athletes are creating a number of problems with respect to the proper treatment of illnesses and diseases. Patients now demand prescriptions for drugs they often do not need or which are not the best (or least expensive) ones for the condition being treated. These ads are frequently misleading and gloss over serious side-effects.

Now, a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association indicates that patients are often influenced by TV and print ads for prescription medications to the point where they question their doctor’s medical judgment. The ads cause many patients to demand particular drugs or a change in medications. Some patients even question their doctor’s diagnosis based on attitudes shaped by advertising.

Thus, the very interaction between doctors and their patients is being influenced by marketing rather than science. A patient’s awareness of a drug and its possible value should stimulate a meaningful discussion with his or her doctor. Too often, however, the complicated medical decision of picking the right medication takes a back seat to which drug company was able to win over the patient with a slick advertising campaign..

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