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Those annoying TV drug ads: what will the FDA find?

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – Well, who would believe it? After almost five years of torture, the Food and Drug Administration is finally investigating the effects of my biggest pet peeve - TV drug ads. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

There are certain trends in our lives that come and go. With time we begin to accept them as part of our culture. I will never accept those misleading, miracle-promising, geared-to-the-hypochondriac, pharmaceutical ads on TV.

In its initial research the FDA found, when patients went to their physicians and asked for a particular drug they saw on TV, they walked out with a prescription for it almost 70% of the time. Supposedly doctors are getting "badgered" by the patients to prescribe these certain drugs. When did doctors get weak? In most cases, cheaper drugs were available.

But there is a group calling for more of those TV drug ads - The National Medical Association, not to be confused with the American Medical Association. The National Medical Association is the prestigious group of African-American doctors that feel these ads serve a profound service to the black community. People in their community who have been reluctant to go to doctors are now learning about certain diseases and symptoms via these ads. Their big complaint? Most of these ads only have Caucasian faces in pain, and then ultimate relief.

So I ask, "Doctors, why not put out your own public service ads targeting the communities?" I wholeheartedly agree that health education should be a top priority. But do you have any idea how much these ads are driving up our health care costs? Something, by the way, the FDA is not looking into...

Get this. General Motors reported that last year they spent $55 million - not on tires or anything related to cars. It was for that expensive little purple pill for heartburn, Prilosec. No generic is available yet. Maybe it's time as a society we start looking at preventive health care. Get rid of those commercials and we wouldn't need Prilosec.

PLEASE stay healthy and happy. For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.


Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.