Yes I make my living on the back of DTC ads. That is one good reason I like them. But a more important reason is I learn what treatments might be available. I suffer from chronic sinusitis which makes me feel miserable much of the time. Having had two surgeries with no lasting effect, I learned through advertising about a new technique called balloon sinusplasty. It is the same thing they use to open up arteries, and it is done in a physician’s office under local anesthesia. Sinus openings get widened and better drainage prevents blockages.
I consider myself knowledgeable about new health treatments as I scan the Internet for medical news daily. I discuss my sinus condition regularly with my internist. Despite this I discovered this new treatment through a television ad. It may change my quality of life. Maybe it is not right for me but seeing the ad gives me the chance to investigate its usefulness fully.
While we like to think all relevant health treatments will be raised to us by our doctors, this is just not true. My internist never raised this despite prescribing antibiotics numerous times for sinus problems. When I mentioned it to him recently, he said he was thinking of having it done himself. So, only through seeing the TV ad did I get awareness of balloon sinusplasty.
Now consider the average American who is not employed in the medical field. They need the opportunity to learn of new treatment options in the media they use regularly. For many older Americans it is still through television and print. Seeing an ad for a new drug might be their first or only source of the information. Those who want to ban drug ads would be denying that information to the patient and relying on a doctor to raise it.
In a perfect world our doctor would be up on all new drugs, tests and procedures. We know that these over-stressed physicians are not always informed on new products. All the mass media ad is doing is promoting a discussion. Critics are concerned patients overstate advertised benefits, underplay risks, and ask for expensive drugs they really do not need. There is some of that happening. On the flip side, patients like to know what their options are for treatment. In my case that discussion with my doctor happened only because I saw an ad.
Information is not inherently good or bad. Consumers need to be skeptical about any advertising. Banning information which is reviewed for accuracy by FDA is bad public policy and a DTC ban would cause many patients to remain uninformed of treatment options. In my case I am very happy to have seen an ad for a potentially life altering alternative.