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arguments for/against dtcpa

Arguments in Favor of DTCPA

  • DTCPA actually encourages Americans to setup appointments with their doctors to discuss their condition.
  • The majority of doctors do NOT give in to a patient’s request for a drug they saw on TV.
  • Underdiagnosis is the failure to recognize or correctly diagnose a disease or condition especially in a significant proportion of patients. DTCPA actually decreases the underdiagnosis and undertreatment of medical conditions.
  • DTCPA actually lessens the stigma associated with certain conditions, such as erectile dysfunction.
  • DTCPA actually increases patient compliance, meaning that the patient does a better job of following the doctor’s orders.


Arguments Against DTCPA

  • The purpose of DTCPA is to sell a drug, not to promote health. DTCPA misinforms patients because it places an emphasis on a prescription solution, even when lifestyle changes could be more effective. Additionally, DTCPA leads patients to disregard healthy behaviors, instead they focus on the prescription drug.
  • DTCPA overemphasizes a drug’s benefits and minimizes the drug’s risks.
  • DTCPA understates a drug’s risks, usually in an unethical fashion. TV ads tend to show visual images that do not match the verbal risks being stated. For instance, when a commercial lists side effects such as heart attack and death, while showing videos of happy people. This practice of pharmaceutical companies leads to patients having a poor understanding of a drug’s side effects.
  • Drugs tend to be most heavily marketed early in their life. At this point, their safety profile is not well known. So DTCPA actually promotes drugs before it can truly be determined just how safe they are.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and DTCPA practice “disease mongering,” taking normal life events and re-branding them as a disease.
  • DTCPA hurts doctors. Most doctors do not prescribe a drug just because a patient request it. The downside to that is patients who have been denied by their doctor feel dissatisfied and often switch doctors.
  • DTCPA wastes doctors’ time. When patients come in requesting a drug, doctors spend valuable time having to explain to the patient that a drug is not appropriate to them.
  • DTCPA is not heavily regulated. Pharmaceutical companies do not need FDA clearance to run an ad. That means that a Big Pharma ad could be shown many times to millions of Americans before the FDA is even notified that the ad is illegal.


  • Delay advertising for new products – this will allow for the safety profile of the new drug to be better understood before advertising begins.
  • Require ads to be pre-cleared by the FDA – this remedy is great in theory, but more difficult in reality. The FDA already lacks resources and as it stands would be unable to pre-clear ads. The solution to this problem would be for pharmaceutical companies to cover the cost by paying user fees to the FDA.
  • DTCPA should present information in terms of numbers, not words – instead of saying a drug really helps people, a commercial should say something like 43% of patients reported an improvement in life. By speaking in numbers instead of descriptive terms, patients would have a better understanding of the benefits and risks.
  • DTCPA should be clearer – ads should discuss benefits and risks in a more understandable way. Studies show the nation averages an 8th grade level of literacy, so ads should accommodate the people they are marketing to.
  • The final remedy is to ban direct to consumer pharmaceutical marketing. In that scenario, pharmaceutical companies would only be able to have non-branded informational commercials. These commercials could advertise a class of drugs (such as statins), but not a certain drug specifically.
    Additionally, tax-funded campaigns could be created to inform the public about common and serious medical conditions.
    Both options would encourage patients to visit a doctor to discuss their ailment.

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