Those TV Drug Ads
Could Cost You More
The global drug
industry is a complicated animal. It’s big and aggressive; it’s greedy;
lacks ethics and morals; its annual revenues are in the double
it doesn’t seem to matter what’s happening in the rest of the economy,
industry still rakes in billions and billions of dollars—US
year. Every year.
So it’s a good
thing that Canada’s
Committee on Health has decided to study prescription drugs in Canada.
Committee is holding hearings across the country on a broad array of
about prescription drugs, everything from prices and advertising to
approvals and what it politely describes as “marketing to and lobbying
prescribers and dispensers” – also known as influencing what drugs
their patients take.
first day of hearings, held in Vancouver,
was interesting. The morning began with several presentations,
including one by
Barbara Mintzes on what’s called “direct-to-consumer advertising,” also
as DTCA. Canada
doesn’t allow DTCA, at least in theory, but more companies are taking
of what are referred to as “grey” areas in the Food and Drugs Act.
are involved in defending the principles of medicare entrenched in the
Health Act will be familiar with the “grey zone” tactic. That’s where
guys – the ones who want to privatize everything or rip off consumers
prescription drugs – say black is white and up is down.
Mintzes, who is
one of the world’s experts on DTCA, says that advertising has an
negative impact on drug costs. She and others have estimated that if
permitted in Canada,
the drug industry would see an additional $1.2-billion a year in new
That’s good for the industry, but what about the rest of us?
According to Mintzes and
other progressive experts,
DTCA not only leads to overall higher drug costs, it also carries real
risks for consumers. She points to Rezulin, a drug that was targeted at
patients with Type 2 diabetes. Rezulin (troglitazone) was advertised to
the US public for
over two years after it was
withdrawn in the UK
for safety reasons. “It was never found to save a single life,” says
“It just wasn't studied long enough or in a big enough group of
know its effects on serious complications of diabetes…By the time it
withdrawn from the US market it was the suspected cause of nearly 400
including 63 from liver failure, the reason for the UK withdrawal," she
In recent years, Canadians
have been bombarded with
drug ads, mainly from US sources. Since the 1990's, the Canadian
been much less vigorous in enforcing the legal ban on drug advertising.
sure you’ve seen the annoying ads for drugs like Zyban and Diane 35.
The Standing Committee on
Health is looking at
direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs among many other important
seems that the MPs on the Committee want to do something constructive
issue. If you have something to say write them. Or better yet, contact
Robinson who’s on the Committee and let him know your views.
is a lower mainland advocate for health care consumers and a defender
universal public health care.