Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

You may experience nausea

You know that really, really fast rattling off of side effects at the end of every drug ad on TV? That’s there because companies are requried to present a “balanced” picture of the risks and benefits.

But seriously, who can understand a word beyond the rapid-fire “You may experience nausea, headache, blah blah, blah” or read fast enough to decipher the side effects that rapidly scroll down?

Well, apparently the FDA is planning a study with 2,000 people to see whether people are too distracted by the cheery ads to notice the risks. To which I say, Duh. This is such a sadly obvious stalling tactic: “Look, we’re doing this study, and we can’t take any action till our analysts have told us what it all means.”

It’s also damage control. Last week, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine said that in 2006, the FDA sent 21 warnings to companies about their ads, down from 142 in 1997. The amount companies have spent on ads went up a whopping 330% during that same time.

Here’s another sad little fact that the Associated Press mentioned in its coverage of this issue: The U.S. is one of two industrialized countries that permit TV drug ads — the other is New Zealand.


  1. Report this comment

    Scott S. said:

    Why is it ‘sad’ that drug companies advertise? Do you object to car ads? Ads for beer and wine? Restaurants?

    Drugs are a commodity like anything else, and drug companies are in business to do one thing, and one thing only. That is to sell a product.

    You sell more of your product if you advertise.

    You may think otherwise, but adults have brains and free will. I trust them to make the correct decision. And prescription drugs cannot legally be purchased without a prescription anyway.

    You probably think that the more government, the better.

  2. Report this comment

    Narconon Vista Bay said:

    Well, as long as money is an issue and drugs need to be approved before going out onto the market, I think ads are quite an important issue. Why is it that the same product, maybe with a different name&brand on it is sold 10 times cheaper in countries like Cuba !!! even without being on the list of generic drugs? I think advertising and marketing costs are making up a way to large portion of the final price.

  3. Report this comment

    Pharmacy said:

    Thanks for very interesting article. I really enjoyed reading all of your posts. It’s interesting to read ideas, and observations from someone else’s point of view… makes you think more.