Advertising: Now the FDA gets into the act

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The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission have been examining various aspects of the advertising business, particularly the idea of whether ads for products deemed less than beneficial should be restricted of not. Now the Food and Drug Administration is joining the fun with an inquiry into pharmaceutical advertising. The question is one of presentation. Are people getting the message that certain drugs carry the risk of unpleasant or possibly harmful side effects, or are they lulled by relaxing imagery and music? The New England Journal of Medicine has published a report suggesting that the FDA is not adequately monitoring drug advertising, and in response the FDA has announced plans to conduct a study of its own to gauge the reaction of average citizens when exposed to the advertisements. According to the Associated Press, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America made its standard argument, that pharma ads are an important source of information for consumers, alerting them not only to the existence of the drugs, but to medical symptoms and conditions they may not otherwise be aware of and which they then take action to remedy. But Public Citizen’s Dr. Sidney Wolf countered, "If advertisers were really interested in getting information about drug risks out, they’d show pictures of those problems, but you almost never see that." Instead, in ads for things like erectile dysfunction remedies, relaxing images of people in hot tubs or strolling along a beach to laid back music tend to accompany the spoken litany of potential adverse drug properties.


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