It’s not uncommon to watch TV and see a handful of drug commercials, all offering relief of some problem. Men

walking down the street suddenly realize it is time to talk to their doctor about propecia, or a group of girlfriends are chatting over lunch about the latest birth control pill.  It’s almost become commonplace.  So, are all these commercials normalizing medical conditions?

That’s the debate going on right now in the professional world.

Enough with the direct advertising, says one doctor
Direct to consumer advertising encourages healthy people to believe they need medical attention, writes Barbara Mintzes at the University of British Columbia. Relatively healthy people are targeted because of the need for adequate returns on costly advertising campaigns.

“Advertising campaigns can lead to shifts in the pattern of use of healthcare services. In 1998, during a campaign for Propecia, visits to US doctors for baldness increased by 79% compared with 1997 levels, to 850,000. Even when the focus in on prevention of serious disease, many advertising campaigns cast too wide a net,” Mintzes said.

Advertising or not Propecia is a popularly-used drug.  Many men say they are appreciative to learn about ways to treat male pattern baldness.

However, Mintzes still believes the ads are too much noting the number of ads now on the airwaves. ” In late 1999, Americans on average saw nine prescription drug advertisements a day on television, now it’s even more. To an unprecedented degree, they portrayed the educational message of a pill for every ill – and increasingly an ill for every pill,” she concludes.

The ads help millions, says others
“Evidence shows a substantial under-diagnosis of many of the major diseases and known risk factors for which effective treatments exist,” argue Silvia Bonaccorso and Jeffrey Sturchio of the pharmaceutical company, Merck.

“At the moment, the pharmaceutical industry, which has perhaps the best information on medicines they make, is constrained in Europe from communicating this directly to consumers, whereas other people and organizations are free to disseminate information of perhaps dubious quality.”

To limit access to product information arbitrarily because of unfounded fears about direct to consumer advertising impinges on people’s right to know.