The issue with Pharmaceutical Advertising

by Vencedor on April 7, 2015 - 3:35pm

One issue that is controversial relating to Media Ethics and the health care area is the Direct to Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising. This type of advertising is where there are commercials trying to sell prescription drugs, such as diabetes and heart medication(LaMattina,2012) on television, thus bypassing the health care professionals. While this is very restricted around the world, there are few countries around the world that allow this kind of advertisement to take place. One such country is the United States of America. Anyone in Montreal that has access to an American Television station has probably seen ads for pharmaceuticals some time or another, thus making the issue pertinent. There are many arguments for both sides of the debate regarding whether those ads should be allowed, but John LaMattina argues in his article at Forbes magazine “Maybe It's Time for Drug Companies to Drop TV Ads” that in the end those articles are unethical and they bring more harm than good. . While it is true that there are possible benefits, other than the monetary ones, from the presence of the Direct to Consumer advertisements of Pharmaceuticals, such as informing people of new breakthroughs in medicine, and making consumers ask their doctors about alternative treatments, they are far outweighed by the possible risks.


In his article LaMattina explains that the ads are not only harmful to consumers but can also be extremely problematic to the companies themselves. Consumers can be deceived by the efficacy of the medication being advertised due to the many psychological tactics, such as “celebrity endorsements” (LaMattina,2012) employed by advertisers to persuade people to buy their products. While this might be allowed for consumer products it is simply irresponsible to employ those tactics on medical drugs. As being misinformed about a drug will have much more drastic consequences than being misinformed about most other products. Not only that,research shows that the presence of those ads might encourage “drug over utilization” and can lead to “inappropriate prescribing” as people pressure their doctors to prescribe drugs that might not be necessary(Ventola,2011). In addition, the mere idea of treating possible life saving medicines as consumer products is unethical, as those companies are treating people as means to sell their product and this should not be the manner in which the health care industry acts. Life saving medication should not be treated as a product to sell. There is a strong argument to be made that people should only learn about medicines from their physicians, as the average person will not have enough knowledge to make an informed decision by looking at a TV ad. Moreover, looking in more practical terms, those ads are not as beneficial to the pharmaceutical industries as one might think. The FDA makes it mandatory that all the possible side effects of a drug to be explicitly stated during any commercial. Those side effects while rare can be quite disturbing and can lead to people refusing to take the drugs advertised for fear of those rare side effects. As LaMattina questions “Does hearing that a drug may cause “anal leakage”  entice you to want to take it?”(LaMattina,2012). This causes problems for both the consumers and the companies as people will not want to take medicine that can drastically improve their lives and companies themselves will not sell their product.Thus the advertisement of pharmaceuticals fails in both an ethical and practical point of view.


Therefore, the representation of pharmaceuticals in the media in form of Direct to Consumer advertisements is unethical in both Deontological and Teleological perspective. It fails in a deontological point of view as possible life saving medicine are treated as simple consumer products and people suffering from diseases that those drugs treat are treated as a means to sell the products. It fails teleologically due to the fact that it does not benefit the greater number of people as consumers are either misinformed or scared of the side effects of the drugs. It also fails in a financial point of view as those ads make the public have“negative view”(LaMattina,2012) of the pharmaceutical companies and distrust them, achieving the opposite effect of an advertisement campaign. So maybe it is time for Pharmaceutical companies to drop TV ads.


Works Cited

LaMattina, John. "Maybe It's Time for Drug Companies to Drop TV Ads." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 15 Feb. 2012. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <


Ventola, C. "Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising: Therapeutic or Toxic?"Pharmacy and Therapeutics. MediMedia USA, Inc., 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 7 Apr. 2015. <>






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