DTC Advertisements in Healthcare: The Impact

Over the weekend I was working at the pharmacy and had a customer come up to the drop off window and ask a question. He explained that he would be traveling abroad to hike mountains, and always had an awful headache for several days for several days afterward. He asked me what product would be recommended to prevent the high altitude of the mountains from giving him a lasting headache. At this time in the day, we were extremely busy and short-staffed, so I had to relay the information to the pharmacist and then back to the patient. The pharmacist told me that his best option would be to pre-treat for the headache with some tylenol, but other than that, it was most likely due to the sudden change in altitude and there is no real treatment to prevent it from happening completely. As I was explaining this to the patient, he looked at me blank and said, “well, there is something that fixes it completely, other people have told me there is, so I’ll just have to figure it out myself,” and walked away. This interaction came directly to mind as I was reading Parrott’s discussion on the pharma-, cosme-, and nutri-ceuticals, and more specifically, the cosmeceutical aspect.

Although this customer came and sought out advice from a pharmacist, who has great knowledge on medical treatment methods, he received an answer that he did not believe, due to the fact that someone else in his life had told him something worked for them. He came to us expecting that there was a pharmaceutical proven to help his problem, based upon the health stories told to him by people he most likely trusted, which could have been an alternative method of treatment that a medical professional would not necessarily be able to pinpoint.

After working in a pharmacy for nearly two years,  I have come to realize that these types of interactions are more common than I previously realized. A lot of people believe that there has to be a pill out there that can solve all of their problems, just like Parrott explained while describing her experience with physical therapy. Unfortunately, the direct-to-consumer advertisements most likely have an effect on this mindset, as they simply advertise to catch the consumer’s attention and earn their business, whether it be through pharmaceuticals, cosmeceuticals, or nutri-ceuticals. It astonishes me that only two countries in the world allow DTC advertisements on prescription drugs— America and New Zealand. Studies have shown that DTC ads have impacted our culture, increasing the demand for prescriptions written and thus increasing the market price of medications.

It definitely makes you wonder if DTC advertisements contribute to the issue of over prescribing medication in America. For example, antibiotics are prescribed to 4 out of 5 Americans per year, even though most conditions are viral in nature and cannot be treated with antibiotics.



CDC: 4 out of 5 Americans prescribed antibiotics each year


Amanda Hecker


One thought on “DTC Advertisements in Healthcare: The Impact

  1. We live in a fast paced country where there is no time to slow down, no time to be sick, and no time to take care of ourselves. Our fast paced society has created a “pill culture” that continues to grow every single day. The most influential factor for this culture other than our inability to slow down, is our general lack of knowledge about the medications we take. Have you every read every warning on every box of every medication you have taken? I surely haven’t. We are extremely trust worthy in this sense. We believe “if it’s still on the market, or if my doctor prescribed this to me, it must work and it must be safe.” This is not always the case, and that is part of what makes this way of thinking so dangerous.


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