Unethical Practices Taint Some Healthcare Marketing
The Manchester injury attorneys at Manning & Zimmerman Law know that when a doctor writes a prescription, most of us assume we’ll walk out of the pharmacy with the drug best suited for the diagnosis. But what if the doctor chose a new drug based on a big marketing push by the manufacturer? Or maybe it’s the other way around. Patients often request a particular brand-name drug after seeing hundreds of television ads. These ads often have actors or well-known celebrities vouching for its effectiveness.
So far in 2018, pharmaceutical companies have shelled out $2.8 billion to run direct-to-consumer television ads touting the benefits of about 70 prescription drugs. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of television ads for medications grew 65 percent as companies increasingly target the exploding and lucrative baby boomer market.
The drug companies are not alone in playing the healthcare advertising sweepstakes. Hospitals are spending more than ever on advertising and, as with other products, that advertising is filled with lots of promises, according to a professor of marketing at Northwestern University. “So a hospital can go out and say, ‘This is where miracles happen. And here’s Joe. Joe was about to die. And now Joe is going to live forever.’ ”
Pushing the Ethical Boundaries
Some healthcare marketing and advertising crosses the line. Patient advocates both inside and outside the healthcare industry believe this distorts the truth about risk and effectiveness. Before pushing for a new medication advertised on television, consider the following:
- Where are you getting your information? Glossy ads can be tempting. Online forums can be full of disinformation. Choose your sources carefully. For example, a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that 90 percent of Wikipedia articles concerning the 10 costliest medical conditions contained inaccurate data. Keep in mind that Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone, including people working for healthcare companies.
- Who is selling you a medication or medical device? Celebrity endorsements are all the rage these days, from beauty products to insurance to – you guessed it – medications and remedies. A friendly and famous face may say he or she is promoting a new drug or treatment because of personal conviction, but what they might not be saying is they are often getting paid big bucks to do so. Truth in Advertising (TINA), a nonprofit that works to protect consumers from false advertising, filed formal complaints against GOOP, a lifestyle company run by Gwyneth Paltrow. They cite 51 examples of what they consider unsafe treatments, and argue that GOOP “does not possess the competent and reliable scientific evidence required by law to make such claims.”
- Are the promises you hear vague or overly positive? Patients of difficult and even fatal diseases criticize what they see as overly positive ads for medications and treatments. These advertisements often feature happy, healed patients and their families with stories of miraculous recovery. But many patients say the ads spread false hope, or worse yet, make them feel as though they are still sick because of their own failings rather than the reality of their illnesses.
- Is that new medication really necessary? When new drugs are patented and hit the market, they can only be sold exclusively for limited periods of time. Once a generic version is available, the price drops dramatically. This means that the manufacturers of brand-name medications need to push the new drug as aggressively as possible. They do this to recoup their investment and hit earnings targets. It also means that some companies create new medications that studies show are really not that different than existing medications. This is done so they can slap on a new name and start the brand-name marketing cycle all over again.
- Is your doctor receiving money or perks from pharmaceutical companies? A ProPublica study revealed that doctors who receive money or meals from drug and device makers – even just small gifts – prescribe a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who don’t. Check out Dollars for Docs, a website that tracks payments made to healthcare professionals and facilities.
Cutting Through the Advertising Clutter
Our Manchester injury attorneys recommend asking, “Who can be trusted for good information about various healthcare treatments and medications?”
Talk to your doctor first. Ask about the side effects of a particular medication. Also ask if there is a generic available, and if they have experience with the recommended medication or treatment. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself if you feel as though you are being pushed into something unnecessary. That might also mean getting a second opinion. See more questions for your doctor here.
Do some of your own research as well, starting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Click here to check approvals and to see if a medication has been recalled. Then instead of a random Google search, look for healthcare websites that have a reputation for independence and trusted information. Examples include WebMD or Mayo Clinic.
Major news organizations will often run investigative stories about drugs or treatments with a suspicious background. They also investigate questionable relationships between those advocating a particular medication and the manufacturers.
And finally, the Manchester injury attorneys at Manning & Zimmerman Law recommend that you be skeptical about the promises you hear made in healthcare advertising and marketing. As an executive director of Breast Cancer Action put it: “It’s the basics of marketing. In order to sell products and services, you have to sell hope.” In other words, buyer beware.
Contact Experienced Manchester Injury Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured by another person’s careless acts, contact the experienced Manchester injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman PLLC. We may be reached at (603) 232-7278 and by email at info@MZLawNH.com. You may also use the “contact us” or chat feature on our website.
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