Ask your doctor if DRUGX is right for you!

I have seen and heard so many commercial for prescription drugs which state “Ask your doctor if DRUGX is right for you!”

It seems to me that, if I go to a doctor, I would prefer him/her to do the prescribing without my input (except for allergy information and answering questions related to diagnosis).

I would be interested in 2 types of responses

  1. Legal: Is or should this type of marketing be legal/ unregulated.

  2. Medical/Science: How do physicians/ patients feel about this.

If it were unregulated, the ad would simply say, “Get DrugX!!!” And in fact, that’s what the ads for OTC drugs do say. But because these are prescription meds, that won’t work, so the ad has to say, “Bother your doctor until he prescibes this for you!”

How do I feel about it? I am not against the ads in the sense that I might think they are morally wrong or anything like that. But I do think they’re pretty stupid. With all the scary warnings about side effects, my question is: Do these ads really sell more meds?

I just heard about a study that said doctors are actually spending more time with patients than a few years ago. The reason apparently is because patients come in with more questions, including, I guess, whether DRUGX is right for them.

Personally, I suppose I’d be appreciative to know that there is a drug for my particular medical condition, although I’d rather leave it to my doctor to decide whther to prescribe DRUGX or DRUGY.

IMHO, the drug companies get two benefits from advertising to the public at large. First, they can create indirect pressure on physicians as toy manufacturers create indirect pressure on parents on behalf of their products.

Second,they create brand awareness in society as a whole, giving the impression that “that’s what everybody is doing.” It’s one of those false bandwagon effects. Gosh, if they’re advertising it everywhere,then it must be really a popular product. And if it’s a really popular product, it must be because it works, etc. Let’s face it, if you have hay fever (such as MRS. HTB) what’s going to make you more satisfied when you come out of the doctor’s office – a prescription for Allega or for some unpronouncable generic that you’ve never heard of?

Just thought of a third effect, the “latest thing” factor. Advertising creates the knowledge of the existance of a new drug and the companies get a “Gosh, I wonder if that would help me?” feeling in the public at large.

The software said Windows95 or better, so I got a Mac…

[slight hijack]
I thought drug companies couldn’t tell you what the drug was for in their commercials.
In aha’s pit thread about Celebrex, it was mentioned that if they came right out and said “Take Blahdee-blah for your condition!” that the drug maker would be obligated to run a lengthy list of possible side effects and contadictions.
Last night I started seeing an ad for Wellbutrin that clearly said it was for treating depression. Typical 45 second (or so, I didn’t time it) commercial with a much shorter disclaimer than Beavis & Butthead even had.
Anybody know the skinny on this? Can they or can’t they say outright what the medication is for?
[/slight hijack]

As for the OP, from the patients perspective I’ve always felt like a chump if I try to tell my Doc what to do. After all, I didn’t go to medical school. If I knew how to treat myself, I wouldn’t be going to a Dr. in the first place.
Also, I’ve felt like I would be taken less seriously if I go to my Doc and say, “Hey Doc, I saw an ad for a pretty purple pill that makes you want to spin around and flare your skirt out, could I have some?” I would think that some Drs would feel like a patient was affecting a need for a treatment based solely on a fancy commercial.
It would be interesting to hear from a Doc on this.

Sadly, I should know the answer to this considering all the years I have worked with pharmaceutical companies. I can say that I know the FDA puts some strange restrictions on advertising which is why you see such vague ads for some drugs that don’t say what they are for.

Regarding why they want you to ‘ask your doctor’, that is just classic marketing in my sense. The drug companies are already doing “push” advertising by bugging the physicians to add YET ANOTHER antibiotic, antiarthritic, antidepressant, etc. to the formulary, but this can only go so far.

The next step is to have the consumer act as a drug rep themselves. With “pull” advertising, you tell them DRUGX will cure their ills, and pretty soon, they want to know why their HMO won’t give them this miracle cure. This puts pressure on the docs/ HMOs to carry DRUGX to satisfy their patient base. Is DRUGX really different from all the other crap they already have in that category? Probably not.

Then again, talk to people who were on Prozac that got switched to Paxil or Zoloft and they’ll tell you how great their life is now.

Personally, I think it is just the pharmacological effect. That is, you take drug1 long enough, and your body adjusts, down-regulating the number of receptors for that compound. Drug2 is either more efficacious at the same dose, or hits a differnt varient of the receptor (not yet down-regulated) so it works a lot better…for a while. And lets not discount the placebo effect on the whole thing…

Here’s a real life example… I have high cholesterol and years ago my doctor prescribed Pravachol for me. I saw a TV ad on Lipitor (sp?) and during my last routine visit I asked my doctor about it. He said I could use Lipitor but that it wasn’t any better than what I was taking. That’s what the drug manufacturer wanted to happen (although the result wasn’t what they wanted). They wanted me to ask my doctor about a competing product in the hope that he would switch me over. Doctors have dozens on choices regarding drugs for certain illnesses and probably don’t prescribe new medications without being asked to by patients… who watch TV.

Seems like you’ve gotten loads of feedback on your second question, so I’ll endeavor to give the skinny on the first.

I’m a Regulatory Affairs manager for a Medical Device company, so this is essentially how I whittle away my days.

It is legal for pharmaceutical companies to market their products directly to consumers (DTC), provided that the marketing items meet certain requirements stipulated in the Code of Federal Regualtions. Since the FDA considers “any statements, claims…” etc. to be labeling, and since the FDA has strict requirements for labeling content, the FDA made some laws governing DTC advertising of prescription pharmaceuticals.

Let me summarize:
-DTC ads have to provide consumers with either an 800 number or other means of obtaining “additional” information (i.e. a package insert). Telling the millions to “ask your doctor” seems to satisfy this requirement.

-DTC ads for prescription drugs have to balance claims of effectiveness with truthful and accurate disclosure of side effects. In other words, if you say that Viagra helps sustain erections, you’d also have to say that it could raise blood pressure. If you don’t state any claims in your ad, then you don’t need to mention side effects. Pointing consumers to “ask the doc.” is one way around having to list out side effects publicly. This way the pros and cons can be discussed in private and with personal emphasis.

-The most obvious reason of all for the “ask you doc” statement is that this is a prescription drug and is not available over the counter.

There are loads of other requirements, including the size of text and logos to be present in the ad, but I think these get to the heart of your question.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, check out FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at http:\\cder

Thanks for the responses… any others are welcome.

Especially from a doctor’s perspective. I think that is the only part of the OP that has not been addressed.