TV Ads for Prescription Drugs - Requirements

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TV Ads for Prescription Drugs - Requirements

Post by rogerwimmer » Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:32 am

Doc: I don’t think I’m the only person who notices that every prescription drug ad on TV spends a lot of time on the side effects of the drug and things that can go wrong. Do the drug companies have to include all the problems their drugs can cause? Are there rules or laws for that? Thanks. - Anonymous

Anon: Interesting question and I agree that most people probably notice how much time in the commercials is spent describing the side effects of the advertised drug. The potential problems are also referred to as contraindications, or conditions that makes a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable.

Some of the commercials are ridiculous. Almost all of the prescription drug ads are 60 seconds long, and they usually go something like this:

• 1-5 seconds of introduction like, “There is now something that may cure ____ (insert a medical condition).”
• About 50 seconds of warnings like, “This drug may cause memory loss, sleeplessness, seizures, dizziness, blindness, loss of hearing, stroke, heart attack, cancer, coma, or death” (and a few dozen other things).
• 1-5 seconds of a spokesperson who says something like, “This drug helped me. Ask your doctor if it will help you.”

Anyway, the answer to your question (and more) is available from the FDA’s website. There is a lot of information there, but be sure to go down the page to the section titled, What must product claim ads tell you? and click on the two links titled, “brief summary” and “adequate provision.”

I think the website will provide the information you need - click here .


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Roger Wimmer is owner of Wimmer Research and senior author of Mass Media Research: An Introduction, 10th Edition.

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