Canadians Wish to Avoid Drug Advertising

Permitting direct-to-consumer marketing of prescription drugs in Canada would be a bonanza for the media, producing approximately $360-million a year in new ads. However the demand it developed would also spur around $1.2-billion annually in new drug sales. This was reported in the September 1st issue of the Globe and Mail from Canada. The issue, as reported in the publication, would be that the majority of that expense will be put on the Canadian Medicare system.

Resistance to allowing direct-to-consumer drug advertising had been strongly stated in the September 1st issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal when the editor, Dr. John Hoey, stated his viewpoint that prescription medications shouldn't be marketed in Canada in the same way as other consumer products due to the fact that could result in dangerous excesses, as has happened in the United States.

The article mentioned that pharmaceutical companies spent $2.7-billion (U.S.) on advertising in 2001, more than three times the the amount they spent in 1996. The article noted that for the drug companies, substantial advertising pays off very well. For instance, for every dollar that went to publicizing the allergy drug Claritin, sales of the drug increased by approximately $3.50. The financial return on anti-impotence medication such as Viagra and drugs to counter hair loss are believed to be even higher.

Dr. Hoey went on to say, "By being marketed in media traditionally used to flog cars, fast food and shampoo, prescription drugs have become name-brand commodities, enveloped in the kind of fantasy and desire that surrounds the purchase of lifestyle product." The article continued, "Further, the barrage of advertising contributes to the 'medicalization' of the normal human condition and transforms people into 'two-legged bundles of diagnoses'."

An additional research article published in the same Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that the higher a patient's exposure to advertising, the more likely that patient was to request advertised prescription drugs. Chief researcher for that study, Dr. Barbara Mintzes of the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research at the University of British Columbia concluded, "Our results suggest that more advertising leads to more requests for advertised medicines, and more prescriptions."

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