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Prescription drug ad bill misguided

August 6, 2009
The Daily Mining Gazette

Those annoying commercials warning about four-hour erections could be a thing of the past if a new bill introduced by Rep. James Moran, D-Va., sees its way through Congress. Moran's beef with the commercials stems from what he considers a problem of decency. Though, his proposal would probably be better off if he tried to take on prescription drug advertising as a whole, instead.

Even though it has become a common punch line, it's safe to say few people enjoy seeing commercials for drugs such as Viagra or Cialis in between their favorite shows. Moran's thinking is similar to that used to create the National Do Not Call Registry many years ago - find something that most people don't enjoy, and try and get rid of it. However, considering the shows that are on network television today, it's unlikely many people will complain about a minute-long commercial that suggests more than it shows. As far as morals go, the shows surrounding these male potency commercials are usually far more offensive than the commercials themselves.

Decency just isn't a big enough justification to see a reduction in these commercials. For something like this to even have a chance in passing, it would need to take on drug advertisements as a whole.

Last year, drug companies spent $4.8 billion marketing their products to potential recipients, which is still dwarfed by how much they spend advertising toward doctors. This scale of marketing - all for a product that should be able to sell based only on effectiveness - makes us a little uncomfortable. Prescribing medication is supposed to be a decision made between a patient and their doctor. Having a third party with an ulterior motive not only influences the process, but trivializes it.

Proposals limiting drug ads have been introduced before, but have seen little success. Ultimately, the prescription drug companies do have a First Amendment right to market their product. They are a business, and a business has the right to promote their goods. The nature of an enterprise doesn't restrict its ability to sell its product. The health care industry has a little too much influence in a doctor's decision making for our comfort, but ultimately they have the right.

While neither a bill outlawing drug ads or Moran's plan likely will pass, but they are still important because they make people think about how they're marketed the things that keep them healthy.

THE STATE NEWS (East Lansing), July 28



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