Except when they're not. Which is every day.
[A] handful of legislators are just saying no to TV commercials for prescription drugs. The politicians are taking aim at the 60-second spots that have made viewers familiar with maladies like male urinary urgency and deficient eyelashes — not to mention side effects like four-hour erections.
Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, is sponsoring a House bill that would ban ads for prescription sexual aids like Viagra and Levitra from prime-time television, on decency grounds. Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, has said he favors empowering the Food and Drug Administration to bar consumer advertisements for new drugs for an initial period after the F.D.A. approves them — until there has been more real-world experience with the medications.
Meanwhile, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, has introduced a bill called the Say No to Drug Ads Act. It would amend the federal tax code to prevent pharmaceutical companies from deducting the cost of direct-to-consumer drug advertisements as a business expense.
"You should not be going to a doctor saying, 'I have restless leg syndrome' — whatever the hell that is — or going to a doctor saying, 'I have the mumps,'" Mr. Nadler said in an interview. "You should not be diagnosed by some pitchman on TV who doesn't know you whatsoever."
Buried within the New York Times story is this quick to-be-sure:
Some academic studies have indicated that such advertising can help people who do need treatment to start taking, and stay on, appropriate drugs, said Julie M. Donohue, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Yeah, but a congressman got annoyed watching television!
A selection from Reason's rich (and question-mark heavy) archive on the subject:
* "Is Drug Company Marketing Evil?" by Ronald Bailey, February 2008
* "Is Industry-Funded Science Killing You? The overrated risks and underrated benefits of pharmaceutical research 'conflicts of interest,'" by Ronald Bailey, October 2007
* "Fever Pitch: Do Drug Ads Make Us Sick?" by Kerry Howley, May 2007
* "Goddamn the Pusher Man: Why does everybody seem to hate the pharmaceutical industry?" by Ronald Bailey, April 2001