Selling Sickness 2013

time to ban direct-to-consumer drug marketing

This title comes from a 2007 editorial by Kurt Stange in the Annals of Family Medicine but the heartfelt sentiment comes from many, many reformers working in the field of healthcare. Read Stange’s review of the biases and effects (“an emerging public health tragedy”) of DTC ads and weep.

If that’s not enough, turn to Ben Goldacre in his not-to-miss 2012 call to arms, Bad Pharma. “Drug advertisements do not serve to inform the public, and should be banned.” (P. 271). That recommendation is preceded (and followed) by hundreds of chilling pages of analyses of the deceptive, delusive, disingenuous, and downright double-dealing practices of the global pharmaceutical industry. It’s enough to start you weeping again.

How can scientists, consumer advocates, professionals, parents, caregivers….citizens of any and every stripe … continue to permit the farce that medicine ads represent “science” or “information” or provide any public benefit?

As student activist Mario Savio said on the steps of the administration building at UC Berkeley in 1964, at another moment when a challenge to the status quo seemed so difficult, but so necessary,

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.

The time to ban direct-to-consumer prescription drug marketing is now.

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