The Lure and Allure of Drug Ads

couple eating popcorn
June 30th, 2014

Advertising is a powerful drug. “Ask your doctor if [fill in the blank] is right for you,” blares the television commercial while cutting to a beaming, healthy, and fit senior taking a turn on the dance floor. Her drop-dead gorgeous partner doubles as a graying Patrick Swayze look-alike, and you could swear the music sounds an awful lot like “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Is it any wonder you might want to get whatever they’re selling?

The end of the commercial tells another story. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires drug ads to list “possible side effects” such as “in rare instances, death.” It’s easy to miss some of the side effects because the voice-over/auctioneer rattles them off at a speed just beyond the ear’s ability to comprehend them.

Drug Ad Pros and Cons

Drug ads encourage you to seek more information about your medical conditions, and that’s good. But if Madison Avenue convinces you that a medication is going to have a positive, life-changing effect, how far would you go to get that prescription? Would you change doctors?

While it’s vital that you receive medical information, the goal of drug ads is to convince the viewer that the imagery will become reality with the aid of the medication.

It’s painful to think that all that separates you from life’s wonders is a pretty pink pill. The relief of pain sells — better even than the pursuit of happiness!

Let’s examine a five-point plan to help keep you off any unneeded medication:

1. Review the Q&A on the FDA Site

The answers you can find on the FDA site are eye-opening and alert you to what to watch for, as well as omissions that you’ll find in drug ads. You might be surprised to learn that the FDA neither approves nor reviews drug ads.

2. Talk with Someone You Trust

Run your reasons for wanting this drug by a trusted friend or family member and seek her input. CaregiverStress reports that “recent FDA research also revealed that both patients and physicians believe consumer-directed advertising frequently overstates the benefits of drugs and understates the risks.”

3. Conduct Internet Research

Research your drug on unbiased, reputable sites such as, which is recommended by the FDA. The editorial team consists of registered pharmacists. Then, research possible lifestyle changes that could produce similar results.

4. Talk with Your Pharmacist

Talk with your pharmacist. Your pharmacists may even know more about your drugs and than your doctors do. Your pharmacist can also advise you about the potential side effects, as well as any drug interactions with your current medication.

5. Take Someone to the Doctor with You

Now that you’ve done your research, you can discuss pros and cons with your doctor, as well as any lifestyle changes that can help you avoid additional medication. Get a trusted friend or family member to accompany you if it makes you feel more comfortable.

The purpose of television commercials and magazine ads is persuasion, not education. They lure the viewer with their pretty pictures. While medications can help keep you healthy, you don’t want too much of a good thing. The best way to avoid making the wrong decision is to research and ask plenty of questions before leaping.