Cover Story

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Hundreds of millions of dollars in pharmaceutical advertising are now making their way to broadcast and cable television networks – thanks to a federal policy announced in August 1997 which allows companies to plug their drugs directly to the public without having to detail their side effects – while print ads routinely tout prescription drugs in magazines and newspapers.

Sanctioning Advertising Hype

      To bolster the flow, according to FDA Deputy Commissioner Mary Pendergast, manufacturers spend more than $10 billion each year to hawk their wares.

      This ready source of money lends itself to abuse. As Greg Critser noted, “Our media and medical establishments are drunk on it — from the editorial pages of The New York Times, which regularly rents out space to Lilly et al., to the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, whose members suck up free promo money and research funds.”

      Much of the money is spent on advertising. A 1992 article in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the journal of the American College of Physicians, described a study of more than 100 advertisements in the 10 leading American medical magazines. The doctors who authored the piece concluded that many of the ads were misleading — and sharply contrast with the general perception of accuracy of the articles in the journals.


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