Marketing prescription drugs directly to consumers through advertising has grown to a $3 billion
a year industry, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Anyone who switches on a television
or reads a newspaper or magazine these days cannot avoid ads promoting drugs for depression, allergies,
heartburn and other maladies.
While the reasons for this trend are many, one important factor is managed care's adoption of drug formularies,
utilization review systems and pharmaceutical risk-sharing agreements that have eroded the physician's
traditional role of prescribing whatever brand of medicine he or she happens to be familiar with.
UC Davis School of Medicine professors Richard Kravitz, director of UC Davis Center for Health Care Services
Research in Primary Care, and Michael Wilkes, vice dean of medical education, have spent the last decade
pioneering research into how drug companies are changing the world of medicine through advertisements.
They have found that ads do induce consumers to ask for drugs by name. The question now facing physicians
and consumers alike is in whose best interest is it when a patient asks for a specific drug the patient,
the doctor or the drug company?
Kravitz and Wilkes share
their opinions on some of the benefits and drawbacks of this trend.