According to the Wall St. Journal's Health Blog, John Edwards is calling for a two year post-approval ban on direct-to-consumer drug ads. Having stayed up for the past several nights watching my team win the World Series, I have certainly received an excessive dose of DTC ads for the likes of Cialis, Flomax, and Lipitor (is anybody else creeped out by Jarvik as he cocks his head and bats his baby blue eyes?) And, yes, I get that DTC's encourage consumers to ask their doctors to prescribe the newest and most expensive meds.
But banning them doesn't make sense. Why? For one, it's one of the only arenas where drug companies advertise their products with full disclosure. Everybody knows it's an expensive ad paid for by the company. There's no pseudo-legitimate journal or medical education company pretending to be a scientific article, when in reality it's a paid advertisement.
Second, they do serve an educational function for consumers, if biased. There are a lot of guys out there urinating very frequently who would not consider this a potentially treatable issue if they hadn't seen those irksome Flomax commercials, the ones featuring the sports-crazed baby boomers who get to hang out in their kayaks longer without having to run into the woods--all because they're taking their Flomax. Sure, viewers are going to run to their doctors and ask for Flomax my name, but it's up to the docs to decide which drug is best. And meanwhile, some men will find out they have early prostate cancer (rather than benign prostatic hyperplasia) and might get their lives saved in the bargain.
I say let the companies have their DTC ads, and use the extra money they gain from increased sales to fund a government-administered pool of money to pay for unsponsored continuing medical education. This will save the health care system much more money in the long run.