Heal the Damage: Prescription Drug Consumer Advertisements and Relative Choices

45 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2005


Drugs are generally tested for efficacy against a placebo, rather than comparatively to determine if they have a significant therapeutic benefit with respect to existing drugs. Consumer advertisements for prescription drugs emphasize the benefit of the specific drug, even though the choice to be made by the physician is a relative one that takes account of lifestyle changes and other therapies and their risks and benefits.

This paper considers the need for better information in the consumer advertisements to put the relative choice into perspective. The advertisements should indicate the need for advice from the doctor about the range of treatments available. When a drug by the same maker succeeds a similar drug going off-patent, the advertisement should make clear the limited ways in which the new product is an advance. More broadly, the drug ads should disclose when drugs have not been comparatively tested to determine if they have a therapeutic advantage. Finally, the television ads should state orally the name of the generic version of the drug to make the name more familiar. These measures can help to alleviate consumer confusion about the benefits of a particular drug and reduce the potential that consumers will pressure doctors for a specific drug when alternatives or less costly ones may be suitable.

Suggested Citation

Gilhooley, Margaret, Heal the Damage: Prescription Drug Consumer Advertisements and Relative Choices. Journal of Health Law, Vol. 38, No. 1, Winter 2005, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 41, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=739805

Margaret Gilhooley (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

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