Cutting back on worries

Published: Saturday, January 31, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2004 at 11:56 p.m.

You may have noticed that often the TV commercials for medicine contain so many warnings about side effects that the medicine seems worse than the illness.

The makers of those pills and potions want their advertising to be really effective. They spent $2.5 billion on those ads.

According to the latest issue of Broadcasting and Cable Magazine, the Food and Drug Administration (with approval of the Federal Trade Commission) plans to give fast relief to the pharmaceutical companies. In February the FDA is expected to issue new rules cutting back on the requirement that the commercials mention all those worrisome side effects. Instead, the commercial will include only the worst side effects with info about where to find a full list of them.

Associate General Counsel for Pfizer, George Evans, says that all this risk information tends to "frighten rather than inform" consumers. The Merck chief of global regulatory policy David Blois says it is best to use a "relatively simple set of messages."

In other words, ignorance is bliss. The pharmaceutical companies deny that the billions spent on advertising medicines have increased prices, and the Federal Trade Commission agrees.

Once again the government sides with the pill makers.

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