Community View | Bring down drug costs by banning TV advertising
There has been a lot of talk lately about the rising cost of prescription drugs in the United States. There just might be an easy solution to this problem. Perhaps the government should prohibit the advertising of drugs on television.
Believe it or not drugs have not always been allowed on TV. The very first commercial for a prescription drug was aired back in 1983. For a number of years after that first ad appeared, there was a lot of turmoil between the government and drug companies about what should be allowed to air on TV. Finally in 1997 the FDA decided to relax its rules. Since that time, billions and billions of dollars have been spent on drug advertising, the vast majority of it on TV ads.
There are only two countries that allow advertisements of drugs on television, the U.S. and New Zealand. All other countries prohibit them, just as the U.S. did before 1983.
In 2016, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America told CBS MoneyWatch that drug ads “provide scientifically accurate information to help patients better understand their health care and treatment options.” That may be true but it doesn’t seem to be helping American’s health outcomes or the amount of money spent on health. According to a 2016 article written for CBS news, “The U.S. spends more of its GDP on health care than 12 other developed countries.”
Drug companies claim they need to increase prices to bring in new revenue for drug development and research. Yet according to The Washington Post, nine out of ten pharmaceutical companies actually spend more on advertising than they do on research and development. The article from CBS states that the arthritis drug Humira was advertised on TV for a year at the cost of $357 million! And that was back in 2016. More and more drugs are advertised every year, most at a cost of over $100 million a year.
It all breaks down to common sense. If drug companies are spending billions of dollars every year on advertising, they need to get that money from somewhere. They are certainly not going to take it out of their own pockets. They are going to raise the prices of the drugs. Perhaps if every citizen wrote to their representatives and senators and demanded that drug ads be removed from television, the drug prices might go back down to more acceptable levels.
With that first television drug ad back in 1983, a Pandora’s Box was opened. Can the resulting consequences be put back in the box? No one knows for sure, but perhaps things can improve if we start taking action now.
If a doctor prescribes an expensive drug, ask if there is a lower cost option that works the same. If your medical condition is not that serious, ask if there are any lifestyle changes you can make instead of taking a high-cost drug. And lastly, contact your congressmen and senators and demand they take action.
Ask them to develop a bill to prohibit the advertising of drugs.