The comment below is in response to Editor-in-Chief Michelle Hoffman's June 2008 editorial, “Public Service Versus Self-Service.”
Reader Phil Burns writes:
“I have just finished reading your June editorial on DTC, where you discuss the value of drug ads, and reiterate an earlier position regarding the industry holding off on their usage. I find amazing that you and the FDA think that the only use of DTC can be if they meet the “Public Service” measure. Why does such a requirement exist for the pharmaceutical industry when it doesn’t apply to most other businesses?
The common good of the industry cannot be overstated, but does that equate to regulating how the industry presents itself to its customer base? The regulations adequately control the approvals of drugs and how the user gets access through prescriptions. The industry is best suited for determining the paths and effectiveness of getting its messages out, and typically pursues many paths to identify the best routes. To await a government agency (or magazine editor’s) guidance on how best to serve the public is constraining at best, and foolhardy in most circumstances. The same government has just realized that the language and format of drug labeling doesn’t lend itself to reading and comprehension by the public, without acknowledging they are the source of that condition. How long must the industry be constrained and the public be left unaware before there is a realization that the more information they have the better choices they can make?
The survey results you print spell out the root of the problem. The 40–41% of physicians that believe their patients are confused and don’t understand the risks of drugs likely represents the same percentage of physicians that are themselves confused and don’t understand the risks. Physicians and the FDA believe that only they have the understanding regarding treatments for patients, and that patients shouldn’t bother them on any level regarding symptoms and other treatment options, since they are so “confused”. Attempt to put the same standard on all items advertised in any form, and realize how parochial the thought process is.
Assuming images of “frolicking, happy people” is enough for individuals to pursue and pressure doctors for products they don’t need, is akin to assuming that every ad in Pharm Tech makes me believe that the product or equipment will solve ALL of my problems, and I had better hurry up and get it. An amazing thought process from someone is fully reliant on advertising to have a business.”