Heroes

Doctors have an idea that could save a ton of money: No more drug ads.

It'll take an act of Congress to ban the practice, but the AMA is on board.

Doctors have an idea that could save a ton of money: No more drug ads.

Have you ever thought about how weird it is that drug companies can advertise something you can't even buy without a prescription?

I always thought the process was supposed to be: feel sick, go to the doctor, explain my symptoms, get diagnosed by a professional, and if needed, get a prescription for a drug based on what's wrong with you.

But no, these commercials always end with the same refrain: "Ask your doctor if [our product] is right for you."


That can't be how it's supposed to work, right?

"I saw an ad that told me I should ask you if this medication is right for me, Dr. Stockphotoman." Image via iStock.

The American Medical Association announced it also thinks there's something weird about those ads.

"Today's vote in support of an advertising ban reflects concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially-driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices," AMA board chair-elect Patrice Harris said in November. "Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

And while the amount of money these companies spend marketing and selling their products to doctors is also a big concern, this is a pretty big deal, too.

There are only two countries in the world that allow drug manufacturers to advertise prescription drugs direct to consumers: the United States and New Zealand. And after this announcement, the AMA hopes that number drops by half.

Drug manufacturers spend $4.5 billion on advertising to consumers each year, up 30% from just two years ago.

And $1.1 billion of that ad money in 2014 was spent by a single company, Pfizer, in promoting drugs like Lyrica, Viagara, Celebrex, and Chantix.

In addition to being a really poor way of storing medication, this just can't be sanitary. Buy a wallet, please. Image via iStock.

A strong majority of the public believes prescription pricing is a top health care issue.

An October report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of those polled viewed "Making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions are affordable to those who need them" as a top health care priority. The next most pressing issue, supported by 63% of individuals was urging the government to take action to lower prescription drug prices.

"Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate."

And that's what the AMA's resolution hopes to address: the skyrocketing cost of drugs.

"In the past few years, prices on generic and brand-name prescription drugs have steadily risen and experienced a 4.7% spike in 2015, according to the Altarum Institute Center for Sustainable Health Spending," reads AMA's press release.

"I take a couple uppers. I down a couple downers But nothing compares to these blue and yellow purple pills." Image via iStock.

But if companies don't advertise, how will people know what to ask for? By trusting our doctors.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) is not in favor of AMA's resolution.

A representative tells Bloomberg, "Providing scientifically accurate information to patients so that they are better informed about their health care and treatment options is the goal of direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Research shows that accurate information about disease and treatment options makes patients and doctors better partners."

And that sort of makes sense, right? But that's kind of the problem. The reason we go into doctors' offices is to have our symptoms diagnosed and treated. When we go in with a diagnosis already in mind (and with a brand name treatment to go with it), we're effectively sidestepping the whole point of having doctors.

I want to live in the world where I go to the doctor, not wait for an ad to tell me about a solution for a problem I didn't know I had. I want to live in a world where I can trust my doctor, not rely on self-diagnosis through marketing dollars. The whole thing is a distraction.

Doing research-y things. Image via iStock.

Unfortunately, the AMA's decision doesn't actually change ... well ... anything. That's up to Congress.

And Congress has forces pushing on all sides of this issue. The most common force? Cold hard cash. That's capitalism for you.

In 2014, the AMA, which represents around 235,000 doctors and medical students, spent $19.7 million lobbying Congress. On the other side of this, PhRMA spent $16.6 million on lobbying in 2014.

A medical technical assistant studies the influenza virus in 2009. Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images.

For better care, we need to get rid of the distraction advertising plays in the process of getting diagnosed.

You can start by contacting your member of Congress and asking about their position on the AMA's recent resolution.

Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

Keep Reading Show less

As I was doomscrolling through Twitter yesterday, the wording of an Associated Press post caught my eye. "The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots in North Carolina to be received and counted up to 9 days after Election Day, in a win for Democrats," it read.

A win for Democrats? Surely they meant a win for Americans? For voters? For democracy?


Keep Reading Show less
Photo courtesy of Claudia Romo Edelman
True

When the novel coronavirus hit the United States, life as we knew it quickly changed. As many people holed up in their homes, some essential workers had to make the impossible choice of going to work or quitting their jobs— a choice they continue to make each day.

Because over 80 percent of working Hispanic adults provide essential services for the U.S. economy, the Hispanic community is disproportionately affected. Hispanic families are also much more likely to live in multigenerational households, carrying the extra risk of infecting the most vulnerable. In fact, Hispanics are 20 times more likely than other patients to test positive for COVID-19.

Claudia Romo Edelman saw a community in desperate need of guidance and support. And she created Hispanic Star, a non-profit designed to help Hispanic people in the U.S. pull together as a proud, unified group and overcome barriers — the most pressing of which is the effects of the pandemic.

Because the Hispanic community is so diverse, unification is, and was, an enormous challenge.

Photo credit: Hispanic Star

Keep Reading Show less

Electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States set an incredibly ugly example for the nation's youth.

We know how it's affected the national discourse of regular adults. But there's no denying the conduct of a president impacts how children around the world see the example being set for them. Every day for the past four years, children have been subjected to the behavior of a divisive figure that many of their parents chose to exalt to the most powerful office in the world.

Sure, adults can make excuses for him saying he's an "imperfect messenger" or that they "didn't vote for him to be reverend," but these are all just ways to rationalize voting for a man with zero character. What a message to send to children: Act awful and you'll be handsomely rewarded.

But what if you took away the "Trump" name and examined the character traits of him as an ordinary person? More specifically, what if your daughter came to you and said this was the kind of person she was planning to date? Well, one MAGA family found out and the results are funny, insightful and quite revealing about how we somehow hold our leaders to different and lower standards than we expect from ourselves in our day to day lives.

Keep Reading Show less

After years of advocating for racial justice and calling out police brutality and seeing little change in law enforcement and our justice system, some people are rightfully fed up. When complaints are met with inaction, protests are met with inaction, and direct action is met with inaction, maybe it's time to get specific in who needs to be held accountable for issues in law enforcement.

That's exactly what Keiajah (KJ) Brooks did at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in her hometown of Kansas City this week. The 20-year-old used her approximately four minutes with the microphone—and with the commissioners' undivided attention—to unequivocally lay out her position to each and every one of the officials in that room.

"Fair warning, I'm not nice and I don't seek to be respectable," she began. "I'm not asking y'all for anything because y'all can't and won't be both my savior and my oppressor. I don't want reform. I want to turn this building into luxury low-cost housing. These would make some really nice apartments."

"Firstly, stop using Black children as photo opportunities, 'cause they're cute now, but in 10 years, they're Black male suspects in red shirts and khaki shorts," she said. "Eating cookies and drinking milk with children does not absolve you of your complicity in their oppression and denigration..." she added, before looking directly at the police chief and pointedly calling him out by name, "...Rick Smith."

Keep Reading Show less