What 20 years of drug commercials are doing to Americans’ health
TV ads for prescription drugs are illegal in most countries and only became common in the US in the late 1990s. Now, it’s hard to imagine American television without them, but their effects on public health are mixed.
Critics note that access to the masses through TV ads encourages the pharmaceutical industry to cast a wider net for its products and to develop drugs that even fairly healthy people would want to take. Those drugs can expose people to unnecessary risks and discourage alternative, nonpharmaceutical treatments. Advertising campaigns also shift the market toward newer drugs, which are more expensive and possibly more risky.