Doctor Reputation

Drug Advertising's Impact on Your Practice

Drug Advertising's Impact on Your Practice

There’s an ad for everything in the world these days, and drugs are no exception. We’ve all seen ads for over the counter drugs and there are ads for ones that require a prescription too. The purpose of these is to get patients to request these drugs from their doctor. Pharmaceutical companies are sparing no effort in order to sell their products and besides, having salesmen visit doctors to get them to prescribe their drugs, they are now also targeting patients. We all know that there’s nothing harder to resist than a patient’s wish. A patient who believes that a certain drug will work for him or her will persistently advocate for it and ask the doctor to prescribe it.

This can cause plenty of issues as targeting audiences without a medical background can be a bit deceiving, since they don’t have the knowledge to process the information they’re given. This can also make life difficult for a doctor as he or she tries to persuade a patient to forget about that drug and focus on the given prescription. There are plenty of pros and cons for advertising drugs, but the negatives outweigh the positives, not by much, but still. There should be better ways to sell medicine other than advertising them to patients and putting doctors in a tight spot.

There are lots of pros as well as lots of cons for drug advertising. The first is that seeing these ads that require a prescription has increased doctor visits. This isn’t a pro because it’s increasing a doctor’s income, but because it helps the patient. When a patient visits a doctor they have the opportunity to discuss their condition and treatment options with the physician. This is especially true for those who are less likely to seek medical attention due to their low income or educational status. The real benefit here is that most of these visits ended with doctors prescribing different and milder drugs than the ones that were advertised. In fact, most of the prescriptions given by the doctors were for over the counter drugs which have few side effects and are generally safer for the patient. Another value is that these ads are often informational and can help educate patients regarding certain conditions and treatment options. 48% of doctors agree that these ads empower, educate, and inform patients. The FDA also requires that these ads contain all the benefits and risks in order to keep the patient fully informed.

Increased compliance is another perk of drug ads. Studies have shown that patients who have asked for drugs and received them from their doctors were more likely to be compliant and take their medication regularly. This is natural as you usually follow through with things that you want to do or ask for. Seeing the ads also increases compliance, as it reminds patients to take their scheduled doses. One of the pros that can also be considered a con is that patients are now more likely to be treated because of the ads. Chemotherapy patients who have fatigue due to anemia didn’t report their fatigue and therefore didn’t receive treatment for it, but after seeing an ad for a drug that treated it, they started reporting it. This is a con because people may start to increasingly complain of things they didn’t complain of before. Basically, seeing a complaint may subconsciously make you think you have it even though you originally didn’t.

The removal of stigma is something drug ads have been able to help with. Male sexual dysfunction was an embarrassing topic that was to be avoided, but it has become more acceptable since Viagra ads came out.

We’ve praised these ads a lot, but there are lots of cons to cover as well. For starters, lots of these ads can be misleading. Over 70% of doctors say that drug ads exaggerate the benefits of the drug. These ads will usually leave out important information, exaggerate benefits, and make connections to lifestyle that make them more appealing. After all, they are made with the purpose of marketing and they need to seem appealing in order to increase profits. Another downside to advertising pharmaceuticals is that those advertised are often relatively new drugs that haven’t been around for too long. You can’t really know the full spectrum of side effects of a drug until at least 5 years have passed, because some side effects can take time to develop or be reported. So patients may see a shiny new drug on the internet and demand it from their doctor, but that could end up harming them.

These ads are great as they’ve helped minimize the stigma associated with certain conditions, but sadly they’ve created other issues. A lot of these advertised products are cosmetic and target certain features in a person’s body, which may make it seem like their current form is unacceptable and should be medically corrected which is far from correct. We should be encouraging people to be proud of who they are rather than convincing them that it needs to be changed.

Overprescription can be hazardous to a patient’s health. More drugs leads to more interaction between them and more side effects. Doctors know what a patient needs and doesn’t prescribe more than that, but if a patient keeps demanding a drug they saw on television this could lead to over prescribing although doctors should be alert and capable of preventing that. This can result in a weaker doctor-patient relationship. A patient will demand a drug and the doctor may not prescribe it because they know what’s best. Patients can lose trust in their doctors if they refuse to give them the drug they’re asking for. Some of them can even switch to other doctors in the hope that these other doctors give them the treatment they seek.

Doctors faced with a patient demanding certain treatment must do what’s right. Your job isn’t to do what the patient asks, your job is to make them better even if it includes something they don’t like. If a patient needs an injection but hates needles, you should still find a way to give it if there’s no other alternative. If a drug tastes awful but will help them recover, you tell them to get through it. There will be others in a patient’s life who will follow his or her wishes, but not you. You do what’s right even if the patient doesn’t fully understand it at the moment. You gain their trust and explain everything as clearly as possible to them in order to make them understand. At the same time don’t be too stubborn. Consider what they’re telling you, maybe the drug they're asking for suits them. If it’s not too different from a drug they’re already taking, then you can substitute them to make your patient feel better as long as there’s no harm in that. In the end, your patients will understand that you’re only looking out for them. If they don’t and go look for another doctor then at least you can go to bed knowing you didn’t do them any harm.

From helping increase a patient’s medical knowledge and getting them to visit their doctor to misleading them and potentially hurting their relationship with their doctors, advertised drugs are a reality that has been going on for a long time. In fac,t the United States is one of two countries that allow these kinds of ads. Every doctor must know how to deal with a situation like this when it happens and be prepared for it instead of having to think of something to say or do on the spot when a patient walks in and demands a drug. 

Key Takeaways

  • One pro of drug advertising is that it can build trust between the patient and doctor if the patient is prescribed what they asked for.
  • A con is that patients now believe they suffer from something that they previously didn't, after seeing an ad on TV.
  • As a doctor, however, your job isn't to do what the patient asks, but what is best for them.