Pharmaceutical drugs are not like other consumer products, in that they are not available for direct sales to the general public, for good reason. They are capable of both great benefit and great harm and it has long been viewed that they should be provided to people on the basis of specialized training and knowledge. Therefore it seems entirely reasonable to me that direct advertising of pharmaceuticals to people without such knowledge can be regulated and banned. One of the compelling reasons (to me) for banning these ads is that they drive up costs related to the prescribing of new drugs under patent protection, which are usually much more expensive than older, competing drugs without having demonstrated they are more effective (and are marketed with much less practical knowledge of their side effects). Since governments pay for health care, they have a legitimate interest in keeping costs down, and this includes the cost of new drugs which are not superior to the old ones (but which consumers are led to believe are better).
The general argument that advertising drives up costs is less compelling for me. Should we ban ads for auto insurance, a product which everybody must buy but which has a significant advertising-related cost built in?*
*If I were made Media Czar, one thing I’d do is declare a six-month moratorium on the advertising of auto insurance and cellphones/cellphone service, on the principle that we badly need a break from these ads. The drug ads would be flat-out banned.