Gullible’s travels

As previously noted, the FDA is going to review the use of celebrity endorsements in Direct to Consumer pharmaceutical advertising. (See Rise of celebrity testimonials spurs FDA scrutiny.) The FDA is worried that consumers will let their guards down when they hear celebrity testimonials and rush to their doctors to demand unsafe and inappropriate medications. Proposals are being floated to have the pharmaceutical companies educate doctors about new drugs for a year or two before unleashing advertising on the public.

This line of reasoning is pathetic. Consider the restrictions already in place for prescription products:

  • First, the FDA must approve drugs and their labeling
  • Second, patients cannot get drugs without a doctor’s prescription
  • Third, insurance won’t reimburse fully for drugs that aren’t on formulary

Rather than relying on pharmaceutical companies to “educate” physicians, can’t we expect physicians to know how to deal with patients who demand drugs for the wrong reasons, and can’t we expect patients to take what they hear from celebrities with a grain of salt?

This is a separate issue from the now discontinued practice of having celebrity endorsers appear on talk shows to talk about how specific drugs helped them without disclosing that they were being paid to make these endorsements. That’s unethical and misleading, but greater scrutiny by the talk shows themselves could have prevented the problem.

October 30, 2005

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