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Pharma Marketing Faces a Character-Count Conundrum

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the another-dose-of-nanny-state-should-do-it dept.

Advertising 176

this_boat_is_real writes "There's growing concern over how pharmaceutical companies use social media and the Internet to market their products. Last November, the US Food and Drug Administration held a hearing on the topic, and many were worried over how marketing mediums such as Twitter — which has a 140-character limit on text — can sufficiently disclose drug risks." Here's the FDA's announcement about last year's hearings, which includes links to an archive of presentations as well as a video record of the meeting.

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A simple solution (2, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469212)

What the drug companies should do is to add a disclaimer such as: -

"Though these drugs may work as advertised, their use is not intended for use by residents of the USA. Such residents who wish to employ these drugs should ensure that their employment does not go against laws in their jurisdictions."

Re:A simple solution (5, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469218)

A simpler solution- don't use twitter. Why the fuck are you looking for medical advise on twitter?

Re:A simple solution (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469230)

A simpler simpler solution [wikipedia.org]

Re:A simple solution (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469292)

Why the fuck are you looking for medical advise on twitter?

Restless Thumb Syndrome?

Re:A simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469324)

advice

Re:A simple solution (5, Funny)

izomiac (815208) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469420)

You shouldn't get medical advice from a drunk dude in a bar, but people do it. My guess is that this group seeking medical advice on Twitter overlaps very nicely with the group of people most susceptible to medical advertising.

Obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com] .

Re:A simple solution (1, Insightful)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469470)

Why the fuck are you looking for medical advise on twitter?

Marketing/adverts != medical advice.

Generally one doesn't look for advertisements.

- RG>

Re:A simple solution (5, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469476)

Good idea. But that still leaves Caucasian Womens' magazines [nih.gov] and TV. Have you picked up an issue of Home and Garden lately? That mag and those like it are chock full of two-page spreads of women frolicing in fields aside pink-and-blue [humansbyumans.com] of bipolar graphic design.

Meanwhile, erectile dysfunciton medicine ads are featuring younger and younger men. Then there's the awkwardness of having to explain them to your kids who see them on TV.

Re:A simple solution (4, Insightful)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469506)

Hah! I love the closing line in the image you linked: "Treatment patients can live with!"

Setting the bar kinda low now, aren't we?

Re:A simple solution (4, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469538)

At least it improves on their draft slogan, "AstraZeneca: culling the unfit from the gene pool through unfortunate accidents since 1999".

Re:A simple solution (5, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470558)

Wow, as an Australian, I find this pharma marketing so bizarre. Except for over-the-counter stuff like pain killers, there is no advertising of medical products in Australia (same for NZ, UK, probably most of the rest of the western world in fact).

How can a non-expert have any idea what the best treatment is for a disease like schizophrenia? Indeed, for anything more serious than a head cold? I can imagine someone doing some serious research and making a suggestion to their doctor (who will hopefully either say 'good idea', or 'not a good idea, because....'), but basing a complex drug treatment choice on a magazine or TV ad? WTF?

Besides, big pharma spends more money on marketing than they do on research. Since probably 99% of that marketing budget is spent in the USA alone, it is incredibly wasteful.

Re:A simple solution (5, Insightful)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469712)

Even better would be to go back to the good ol' days and prohibit marketing prescription drugs to anyone without a license to prescribe drugs. Crazy, I know.

Re:A simple solution (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469796)

I tend to agree. We should not allow advertisements for prescription drugs in ANY venue intended for the general public. The pharmaceutical industry has done irreparable harm to the health care industry through advertising. It's one thing to have people going out on their own and doing independent research to find out alternative treatments that might help them. It's quite another when sizable percentages of the population whose sole source of information about a product is what they learned in a 30 second TV ad decide to follow the ad's advice to "ask your doctor if [insert drug here] is right for you". If everyone did that, doctors would never get anything done....

More often than not, it's a waste of doctors' time having to explain to patients why a particular highly advertised medicine is not the best choice. Half the time, the reason is that the medicine the person is on is working, so changing medications would just be adding risk with little benefit. As such, this sort of direct-to-patient advertising is harmful to both the quality of patient care and the proper functioning of our health insurance system.

Don't just ban it on Twitter. Ban it on TV, on the radio, in newspapers, magazines, and related Google search result sidebars, too. While you're at it, please crack down on the "herbal viagra" spam. :-)

Re:A simple solution (1, Troll)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470060)

It's better than that. Money for those ads has to come from somewhere and spending it on advertising rather than spending it on lowering the cost of R&D and lowering the cost of the drugs themselves is nothing short of greed beyond any hope of redemption. An ad for any medication whose side effects can be worse than the symptom they treat should not be allowed period. Making such a rule would simply change what side effects are reported though. The intent of Truth in advertising laws should be held to strict compliance with such things. Yes, they use a happy self confident man to advertise erectile dysfunction pills, and all the women who now want him, how his golf game is improved and on and on. They should advertise it truthfully: Yes, you now have an erection (for the next four+ hours) and you have to deal with that while your wife is nagging and bitching at you because you still didn't do all the other stuff that she wanted. While it may make your underwear fit tighter it will do absolutely nothing for her menopausal homicidal derangement.

If you have PAD and never knew it, see a doctor. If you are also all but dead we have a medication that may be able to make your life worth living for a couple of more months. If you have PAD and want a couple of side effects that make you wish you were dead, we have a medication that may be able to help you.

If you don't think you can afford this medicine, don't worry, we have a way to scam the insurance industry, after all, we've helped pay for most of their vacation homes for the last 35 years.

Disclaimer: We are in the business of making money for the 'treatment' of medical conditions. If you are looking for a cure, please see your doctor, priest, or feel free to ignore our company altogether. Not all drugs are made with such callous intentions, but all drugs made by us are made this way. Not all drugs can treat all symptoms, so generally, if you have consistent breathing it is not possible to determine if this drug will affect you in a positive way, consult your doctor for more information for this symptom. If this medication makes you feel and look like any person in our advertisements, please call our marketing department: allow 30-45 rings as they may be sleeping.

Chantix is a non-nicotine stop smoking treatment. If you want help to stop smoking see your doctor. He may prescribe Chantix. Remember thalidomide? We do too. Chantix may have some side effects if you are not already suffering from mental disorders. These side effects may make you wish you had suffered from mental health disorders prior to taking Chantix. It make also make your neighbors wish you had been on mental health medicines before taking Chantix. If you are in the random 53% of people who are not totally fucked over by this medication, you might be one of the lucky ones to get headaches and diarrhea. For those symptoms, please see your doctor as we have medications for those symptoms also.

These medications are worse than unethical, in many cases they are advertising a chance for you to die. Yes, die. Any medication with a side effect of death is nothing more than Russian roulette with insurance company assistance in buying the bullets. Every disclaimer for medications should have two measures for side effects: one that lists the possible side effects, and one that lists the total number of marketing people who tested the drug and which if any of them suffered from side effects. Yes, I said it. All testing should be repeated on Marketing Group members and sales if they are involved etc.
It must be reported what percentage of company employees who tested the drug also suffered side effects.

Re:A simple solution (4, Interesting)

azrider (918631) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470308)

"ask your doctor if [insert drug here] is right for you".

Even better are the ones that say "Tell your doctor if you have [insert disease here]". Last I knew, since my doctor is supposedly monitoring my health, my doctor should be telling me.
Otherwise, this is a blatant invitation for doctor shopping. If your doctor will not prescribe the medicine du jour, find one that will.

Re:A simple solution (1)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469972)

Even better would be to go back to the good ol' days and prohibit marketing prescription drugs to anyone without a license to prescribe drugs. Crazy, I know.

i think it's less crazy to prohibit the marketing to anyone than just some people.

doctors should already have a public database of drug claims and clinical trial information. if a patient has high blood pressure, the doctor can look through all the drugs that claim to treat that ailment and see clinical results to make an informed decision. no marketing required.

Re:A simple solution (2, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470138)

Ideally, that would be the case. But I know from personal experience that the doctors never check. They make an educated guess on the spot based on a quick glance through the questionnaire and a few questions. Then, if that drug dosen't work, they try another one. Then cocktails of 'em.

More patient throughput and the patients' problems disappear because they're left with nothing but hindbrains, drooling stupors, and tardive dyskenesia.

Re:A simple solution (0, Redundant)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470056)

Who the fuck is dumb enough to look for advice from advertising?

Re:A simple solution (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470306)

Learning that it won't be able to have ads for Viagra and Monostat, Twitter just got a lot more interesting to me.

Re:A simple solution (1)

settantta (577302) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470570)

'Cause they're all twits?

Re:A simple solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469276)

An even easier solution - don't advertise prescription drugs to patients.

(The over-the-counter drugs are generally low-risk, and in any case the warnings are right on the packaging when you buy them.)

Re:A simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469898)

Lots of over the counter drugs are not low risk, and many can cause serious side effect when taken over a prolonged period of time. The nice thing about otcs is that most people don't know the risk and take them as if there where none. Pseudoephedrine is a good example of an otc that has had its availability restricted because of its illicit use. Aspirin is another drug that can cause death(about 25% of the time) when an overdose occurs.

Re:A simple solution (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469908)

If you can't SELL directly to the consumer then you should not be allowed to market to the consumer. These are substances that are considered so bad that untrustworthy civilians can't be trusted to buy them without a doctors referral. That line of reasoning should apply to the ads. People that can't be trusted to buy their own drugs should not be conned into demanding them from their doctor.

Re:A simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31470132)

Zicam, fen-phen, etc.

Re:A simple solution (3, Insightful)

bjwest (14070) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470556)

I totally agree. Pharmaceutical companies should not be allowed to advertise prescription drugs and OTC medications should be limited to after family hours. My thoughts on why there's so much prescription drug abuse by the young is that they are bombarded by advertisements on TV.

Have a pain, take this drug.. Life got you down? Here try this one. No wonder kids think drugs are the answer to everything. That's what they've been told by Pharma... Take a drug (prescription, of course, illegal drugs are bad m-kay) to make your life "normal".

Lawyers shouldn't advertise either, but that's getting into another topic.

Re:A simple solution (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469798)

"#NonUSA Buy ExcelSuperGreenDrug! #USA Sorry, you die."

Isn't the solution obvious? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469226)

All the cool kids today are using URL shorteners. They make it impossible to see where a link is going, make the link's function depend on two 3rd parties rather than just one, and probably provide lots of sneaky analytics data; but they allow you to embed URLs in your tweets, so clearly it's worth it.

Anyway, the fine nation of Uganda has the .ug TLD. All we have to do is obtain dr.ug and set up a URL shortening service specifically for linking to giant lists of scary sounding side effects from pharma shill tweets. What could be more logical?(Besides, y'know, not fucking direct marketing Prescription Drugs...)

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (0)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469262)

Is there any reason you used Uganda? In other words, could the country in your submission be Vanuatu for example?

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (2, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469296)

He uses uganda for the same resason del.icio uses .us (to spell delicious) -- so that the url spells "drug" when you take the tld separator out. The .vu doesn't mean anything in this context (at least, i don't see it right away). Its not a swipe at Uganda, its just utilitarian.

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469574)

I was hoping that there was a .ct TLD, so that I could suggest sideeffe.ct; but apparently there is no such TLD. dr.ug seemed like the next best thing, and .ug happens to be Uganda. Absolutely nothing to do with the country itself, just needed a TLD that would make it easy to spell something.

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (2, Funny)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469976)

Connecticut. .ct.us so that you can have siddef.ct.us or couldeffe.ct.us Might work.

Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469298)

Why would anyone use a social media platform that artificially limits your entries to 140 chars? This is a technical limitation that would seem to limit the utility of the service.

Why would they create a blogging site and deliberately degrade it in this way?

And why limit it by chars? Wouldn't limiting by number of words (provided each word is no longer than say 30 chars) be a better way to keep posts simple without introducing a situation where users use awkward abbreviations to shorten their entries?

A service that limits the length of entries by number of words (and say one URL per entry) instead of by number of chars would seem to me to be the best way to enforce brevity. Isn't the point of brevity to reduce the time spent reading information? The typical Twitter entry with awkward abbreviations would seem to cancel out this advantage.

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (2, Insightful)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469352)

Perhaps because it was designed with SMS limitations in mind?

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469400)

That may be. It would be interesting to know what percentage of people tweet via SMS versus web access or other means.

With more and more phones having web access and web access being more ubiquitous, I don't see why SMS is still needed for tweeting. But if it is needed, why not allow them to send more than one SMS message to comprise an entry based on the amount of time passed between each message?

What would be a good guess on the percentage of people tweeting via SMS?

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (1)

KiahZero (610862) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469520)

Not "may be," "is."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/02/twitter-creator.html [latimes.com]

It was really SMS that inspired the further direction -- the particular constraint of 140 characters was kind of borrowed. You have a natural constraint with the couriers when you update your location or with IM when you update your status. But SMS allowed this other constraint, where most basic phones are limited to 160 characters before they split the messages. So in order to minimize the hassle and thinking around receiving a message, we wanted to make sure that we were not splitting any messages. So we took 20 characters for the user name, and left 140 for the content. That’s where it all came from.

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469986)

Funny thing is, I heard someone on TV the other day talk about the 140 character limit of SMS. The two are sort of merging in a lot of places. Ick.

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470594)

SMS actually has a limitation of 140 bytes or 140*8 bits, which are also 160*7 bits. AFAIK both 7bit and 8bit encodings are supported, but usually 7bit is used.

Re:Why a 140-char limit, and why not by words? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469376)

The messages are limited to the size of an SMS messages since that is how tweeting was originally meant to be done.

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (4, Funny)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469578)

Anyway, the fine nation of Uganda has the .ug TLD. All we have to do is obtain dr.ug and set up a URL shortening service... What could be more logical?

Dr. Uganda?

Re:Isn't the solution obvious? (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469948)

President Madagascar's personal physician...

What's wrong with twitter and drugs? (5, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469232)

My dealer uses twiiter.

Re:What's wrong with twitter and drugs? (2, Funny)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469258)

My dealer's girlfriend has nice tweets.

Is that really the problem? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469250)

As if character count is the real worry with how Big Pharma markets their wares? Talk about misdirection and misframing....

140 Chars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469268)

Yo dawg.Come check out this new medication for Lupus. It's off the chain.You'll be fucking up with fat bitches in no time!Btw it causes horr

Re:140 Chars? (4, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469356)

Yo dawg, I herd you like side effects so we put a Viagra in your Viagra so you can go blind while you get priapism. http://www.viagra.com/ [viagra.com]

Information (0)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469270)

I'm in favor of full disclosure of significant risks, but I think it's a bit ridiculous that a side effect with 0.1% occurrence needs to be listed in every advertisement. If you're getting a prescription medication, you should be talking to a doctor. The doctor should be able to warn you of significant side effects, and those lovely information sheets can tell you about the rest. Is this much information REALLY necessary?

Re:Information (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469294)

Clarification: a MINOR side effect with 0.1% occurrence. I'm not talking about "1 in 1000 dies instantly". I'm talking about "1 in 1000 has a mild headache".

Re:Information (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470180)

I'd think that if only 1 in 1000 people taking the pill experience a headache then it should be marketed as a cure for headaches, seeing as the portion of the population at any given moment with headaches is probably much higher than that.

Re:Information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31470120)

If you're getting a prescription medication, you should be talking to a doctor.

I agree, but I came to a different conclusion: Your doctor should be informed on medications enough that he is recommending what you take, you should not be requesting drugs you saw on tv.

Doctors not only know the side effects, but they also know the alternatives. Why should pharmaceutical companies be advertising things you cant directly buy at all?

How to meet the character limit :) (5, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469314)

"Buy __MIRACLEDRUG__ to cure __DREADDISEASE___. See your doctor before using. May be fatal."

There, as long as __MIRACLEDRUG__ and __DREADDISEASE__ aren't too long I think we've met the 140-character limit and mentioned the worst possible side-effect. Can we archive this discussion now?

worst possible side effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469840)

is quite a bit worse than fatal. It could take a week or two to kill you, and make you feel great during that time, while turning you into a disease carrier fatal to everyone around you while you're still alive.

Re:worst possible side effect (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470186)

So you get to be a super villain for a week or two, but you have to die at the end?

More than a few people might consider that a worthwhile trade.

Neither can anything else (1)

purplie (610402) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469322)

So they think a 30-second commercial is long enough to disclose drug risks? Or anything else than a many-page highly technical report that assumes the reader knows all the implications of the implications? And when the risks are often not even well-known in the first place?

Re:Neither can anything else (2, Insightful)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469390)

The thing is, in a 30 second commercial, you can use a sped-up announcer or 2 point fonts that are completely unreadable, but TECHNICALLY meet the requirements.

In a 140 character twitter message, you can do a bit of unintelligible abbreviation, but even then, 140 characters isn't enough to include the disclaimer ITSELF.

Twitter is overrated but others have length limits (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469536)

In a 140 character twitter message, you can do a bit of unintelligible abbreviation, but even then, 140 characters isn't enough to include the disclaimer ITSELF.

True, but let me see what I can fit into 120 characters, the length of a Slashdot signature:

Have trouble keeping your pecker up? Ask your MD about VIAGRA. (It's not for everyone. For safety info see VIAGRA.com.)

Mod twitter [...] overrated!

I think Twitter is overrated too, but the article takes Twitter's message length limitation as a postulate. It also mentions the similar length limitation in Google text ads.

Huh...interesting problem (1)

ucblockhead (63650) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469366)

I think I'll send a letter to my congresswoman asking for a bill requiring all text ads be at least 141 characters in length.

Re:Huh...interesting problem (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469588)

You might be onto something. See if they can get a healthcare bill down to a single tweet.

Can Twittering help my pharmaceutical business? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469370)

1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890
Tard. dysk.; fever; shaking/sweating/confus./incr. pulse/bloodpress (NMS)

1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890 1234567890
occas. fatal; [mini]strokes 4 psychotic old ppl.; suic. risk; coma; death

Yay!

Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements. (5, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469396)

Quit allowing the advertisement of prescription drugs. The reason that prescription drugs are, well, by prescription, is that they may carry significant risks, and careful evaluation by a professional is required as to whether a patient should take them.

If a patient needs a prescription, let their doctor be the one who gives them their options, based on a full discussion of the risks and benefits of each possible one, and let the patient be the one to decide based on this information. And while we're at it, let's disallow the pharma companies from ever knowing how often a given doctor prescribes their stuff, so that they can't give any type of reward or kickback (they would still, of course, know how often they're prescribed in aggregate).

Medical decisions should be made based upon a detailed discussion with a professional, not a glossy brochure.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469498)

But we can't let a bureaucrat get between patients and their health care needs! Not even if that bureaucrat is a doctor!

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (3, Interesting)

barzok (26681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469508)

Quit allowing the advertisement of prescription drugs. The reason that prescription drugs are, well, by prescription, is that they may carry significant risks, and careful evaluation by a professional is required as to whether a patient should take them.

There are only 2 countries which allow "direct to consumer" advertising of prescription drugs - the US and New Zealand, and I'm not 100% about NZ (been a while since I looked). That should tell you something right there.

Medical decisions should be made based upon a detailed discussion with a professional, not a glossy brochure.

Sometimes I wonder if the glossy brochure and a few free pens & notepads is all the professional is working off as well.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

ldconfig (1339877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469518)

more 420 would mean less 140 :)

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (3, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469622)

that's a very good point. before i visited the states i'd never seen an ad on tv for prescription drugs. i can't see how it helps anyone other then the drug company, and their well being doesn't trump the publics.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469742)

Sometimes I wonder if the glossy brochure and a few free pens & notepads is all the professional is working off as well.

That and the Powerpoint slides from their gratis "training" seminar in the Caribbean.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31470390)

There are only 2 countries which allow "direct to consumer" advertising of prescription drugs - the US and New Zealand, and I'm not 100% about NZ (been a while since I looked). That should tell you something right there.

Canada has some limited drug ads.

Medical decisions should be made based upon a detailed discussion with a professional, not a glossy brochure.

Sometimes I wonder if the glossy brochure and a few free pens & notepads is all the professional is working off as well.

Ha. The dirty secret of the drug business is when you bring your prescription to the pharmacy & have it filled, the pharmacist immediately sells the prescription to a data broker. Not to build a profile of the patient, but to build a profile of the doctor. Then they sell this info to drug sales reps.

So Dr. Smith, we notice that you prescribe a lot of drug A, which is for medical condition B. We think our drug, drug X, is much better, and here's some scientific literature that might help you make a decision. And if you start prescribing more of drug X than drug A, we'll hire you as a consultant, or send you to a nice medical conference in Hawaii...

The drug business does develop new drugs, and they do help people. But they are very scummy in other ways.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469540)

How about quit allowing drug manufacturers to release drugs with no more than 2 side effects?
What ever happened to "Do no harm"?

The problem isn't fitting the contraindications into a tweet, its having too many contraindications.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469710)

I think you meant "...to release drugs with more than 2 side effects?" The no there kind of changes it and I'm sure that the pharma companies would gladly oblige.

In reality though, MOST things will have more than a few side effects, that is why they are prescription drugs...if they were completely safe they would be OTC. As far as that goes, even most OTC drugs have more than a few potential side effects they are just more rare and less damaging. If Bristol Myers Squibb proposed Tylenol as a new drug it would almost certainly NOT be given clearance by the modern FDA, it's therapeutic window is just too small, especially in people with liver issues which they might not even know they have.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469772)

How about quit allowing drug manufacturers to release drugs with no more than 2 side effects?

Because we all have different DNA, so one person will have side effects, where another person does not. All drugs have some side effects, even natural ones. Some people react badly to caffeine for example.

However, very little work is done to match your DNA profile to side effects of any given drug. Most clinical studies only track your "race" European, African, Asian etc which is a poor indicator of genetic differences. Hopefully as the cost of DNA mapping is get significantly cheaper there will be a batter mapping of your genetics Vs side effects so a Doctor can administer drugs which match your generic profile.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31470464)

Side effects are often haphazard - some guy may have reported having more headaches during clinical trials, but the true cause was his kids drums or listening to his iPod too much. Someone may have had a heart attack during trials but that was due to chance or perhaps too high a cholesterol. Drug testing is as scientific as we can make it, but is nowhere near the chemistry lab experiments we did in high school for being truly controlled. The systems involved and the myriad possible interactions are just too hard to test completely, so any reported side effects (possibly higher than a certain threshold) have to be reported. How many software incompatibilities have we seen over the years where software package x and driver y don't get along? The same thing happens for drugs, especially when the elderly who have the weakest (on average) immune systems are the ones coping with the most interactions.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469584)

There are four kinds of drug ads:
  • ads for an over-the-counter drug such as Advil (ibuprofen),
  • "help seeking ads" that mention a disease and no drug ("if you have symptoms A, B, and C it could be disease XYZ; visit LearnAboutXYZ.com"),
  • "reminder ads" that mention a prescription drug and no disease ("ask your doctor whether PLACEBO is right for you"), and
  • ads that mention both a prescription drug and a disease, which also have to mention the side effects.

If you ban all drug ads, then how do you educate the public that a particular syndrome is treatable?

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (3, Informative)

jx100 (453615) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469650)

By telling all the doctors that some drug exists, who will then tell the people when they go to see them about the new giant growth in their neck.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469760)

how do you educate the public that a particular syndrome is treatable?

By telling all the doctors that some drug exists, who will then tell the people when they go to see them about the new giant growth in their neck.

Unless the people all think that, for example, "the new giant growth in their neck" is a normal part of aging. For example, a patient might be afraid to go see a doctor about sexual dysfunctions for fear of wasting the doctor's time and the patient's money for a visit.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469900)

you do not need to market medications to talk about illness. you can simply say "see your doctor for available treatments".

end of story.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470422)

You can quite easily run an ad saying "Do you have a giant neck growth? Help may be available for you, consult your doctor!" without advocating a specific treatment.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (4, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469784)

Sounds to me like with the exception of the (possibly) the last bullet point those kind of ads should be banned. They play into people's fears and constant need to "enhance" themselves. These companies are just hoping to make us all hypochondriacs and it seems to be working sadly. The ins and outs of various diseases and medicines should be left to the expert, the doctor, not some half-brained twit who rots their brain watching hours and hours of pharma ads.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0, Flamebait)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469982)

Would that also include banning the radio PSA reminding women to take folic acid [wikipedia.org] during pregnancy (or when planning to become pregnant) to reduce the rate of birth defects? How about the ones urging teens not to commit suicide? Though not exactly drugs in the traditional sense, they do pertain to health and probably constitute a fifth class, but they may share some overlap with the other types of ads mentioned.

I also fail to see the issue with the first category of add. A lot of over-the-counter drugs are relatively harmless and are about as similar as different brands of shampoo. If three different cough medicine companies want to advertise their brand, that's entirely their business. Not all types of medicine are something that requires the expert opinion of a doctor. Sometimes common sense or a basic understanding of disease and medicine is enough to treat something like a common cough.

I share your sentiments regarding the effects of a lot of this advertisement, but not your solution. As tepples pointed out, advertisement can serve as a form of education for the public. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

XorNand (517466) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470246)

I believe everyone here is talking about prescription drugs, not vitamins or OTC meds.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470438)

That's certainly what I meant, at least. If a drug is safe enough to let people buy it off a grocery store shelf without consulting a doctor, we're talking about a different story. Folic acid, shampoo, and cough medicine are not generally prescription drugs, nor are suicide help hotlines.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0, Redundant)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470418)

haha fail so bad.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469836)

"If you ban all drug ads, then how do you educate the public that a particular syndrome is treatable"

Shouldn't the patient be discussing their symptoms to the doctor? I do a review of systems with all of my patients. Unless there is something new, anything that is bothering a patient I should already know about.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

digital_proletariat (1766902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469728)

"Tell your doctor? Tell your doctor?.. Shouldn’t my doctor be telling me?.. When you tell your doctor, isn’t he just a dealer at that point?" -- Bill Maher

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469788)

Tell your doctor? Tell your doctor?.. Shouldn’t my doctor be telling me?

Medical records aren't yet completely synchronized between health care providers. Part of this is that electronic medical records are relatively new; the other part is HIPAA. Besides, how will your doctor know what side effects you've been feeling if you don't tell your doctor about them?

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0, Troll)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469782)

Quit allowing the advertisement of prescription drugs.

Not going to happen, check out the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press

It's pretty clear. And personally I don't favor amending it just so some easily manipulable people can stop getting upset when their doctors don't prescribe them the random medicine they saw on TV. Learn not to be manipulated by advertising, it's an important life skill. Don't make the rest of us suffer just because a small group who can't handle it. By your logic we ought to ban a lot of things because a small minority can't handle them.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

JNSL (1472357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469934)

The right to free speech is not unlimited. Since it is commercial speech, any law abridging the speech needs to pass intermediate scrutiny - i.e. the law must further an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest. So if the law bans the interest (protecting the health of citizens is important) without going too far (the narrower the better), it would fly.

The real issue is getting the law passed. As far as Congress justifying the law, the commerce clause would easily serve Congress. But special interests could hold it back.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31470052)

It is indeed pretty clear. Those rights were granted to human beings, not multi-national conglomerates. Corporations don't, and weren't supposed to, have the same rights as human beings. Free speech is not unlimited - when your "speech" is detrimental to the well being of the vast majority of citizens, then it is no longer protected by the Constitution. Yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre comes to mind...

Also, it has happened plenty of times before; remember Joe Camel?

Furthermore, it's not just some "small group" who can't handle not being manipulated by advertising - it's pretty much the extreme majority. They've spent the last 60 years studying our brains just so that we *can't* ignore their marketing efforts - and they're pretty damned good at it.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470102)

Already happens, see alcohol and tobacco advertising restrictions. Previous SCOTUS rulings oked them. The current SCOTUS may not, but we may get lucky and have Scalia or Thomas die.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (3, Insightful)

Panoptes (1041206) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470118)

After reading this (and other comments in a similar vein) I can see more clearly what is wrong with commercialised healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry in the USA. For all us non-Americans out in the real world, the title of that patriotic song "God Save America" might be changed to "God Save Us From America".

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470256)

After reading this (and other comments in a similar vein) I can see more clearly what is wrong with commercialised healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

Sure you can. I simply don't see the problem with phantonfive's post. The First Amendment really is one of the things that the US has going for it. I don't favor screwing that up just to hypothetically protect some dumb people.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470394)

FIne lets take "human rights" away from corporations thou.

Re:Sure, let's solve those disclosure requirements (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470444)

there are already tonnes of restrictions on what's aired on TV and cable. it's freedom to speak not freedom to force millions to listen to your ad. and yes we do ban lots of stuff because a minority can't handle them.

it's like you've got no grip on what happens in the real world.

It's easy to do in 144 characters... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469680)

Viagra: Get yur d!ck up! F-ck lik a horse! SFX: Eye sh!t, belly sh!t, soft sh!t, piss sh!t, heart sh!t, brain sh!t, crash yur plane sh!t.

#Pfizer

See?

There's more info in 144 characters than you'll get from the tv commercials.

not a problem (3, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469730)

wanna bet the law gets changed ?

I can just see it now... (1)

mcalchera (1518515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31469826)

cialis may b rite 4 u 2day! side fx r: ur ass may leak, <3 atk, u cant sleep. call ur dr if u hav erection 4 more than 4 hrs

Chemical Death..... in 140 chars or less (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31469974)

End prohibition..... Re-Legalize cannabis.... educate the public on the proper medicinal use of cannabis.

The pharma companies will lose money naturally. Who wants to take a pill that kills you slowly when you can use cannabis without side effects.
(Gotta use it properly though and that takes information that's not mainstream.)

Search for "Granny Storm Crow" and start reading.

Risk disclaimers are BS for any prescription (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470024)

You need a prescription, right? So that means you've seen a doctor and a pharmacist if you're taking it, and it was the responsibility of one or both of them to explain all of the risks to you. Too damn bad if you're taking prescription meds without a prescription, you deserve what you get.

The disclaimer is effectively inherent in any legally prescribed medication.

140 characters (1)

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Why must they advertise on Twitter? (4, Insightful)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470064)

The disclosure laws are there for a reason. If you can't satisfy their requirements in a tweet then you can't advertise pharmaceuticals on Twitter. If you can't satisfy them in a Google ad then you can't advertise pharmaceuticals in a Google ad.

This isn't affecting any one company over another or anything like that. It's just following the laws to their conclusion -- and, really, going right along with their intention. Putting a drug in your body is of much greater consequence than what company you buy your mass-produced junk from, and these laws make sure drug companies can't just do snappy, feel-good 10-second spots with no substance whatsoever like beer companies and cola companies.

A big part of advertising is repeating a brand name over and over. There's an impression made by hearing a brand name in association with positive images or text, even if you aren't very involved with the ad. The disclosure laws try to prevent companies from just spamming you with impressions and making sure there is substantial information right up front. If it's behind a link, as many of these companies propose, that's all lost. The casual eye skips over, gets the positive impression and none of the disclosure.

So... within our current framework if there's no room to disclose right up front there should be no ad at all. Maybe the disclosure laws suck, maybe the fact that drugs are advertised at all sucks... those are separate points. As the law stands now, no Twitter ads for Viagra. Yay!

As a vistor to the US... (3, Insightful)

trawg (308495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31470152)

... I am regularly amazed by the sheer number of pharma ads on television. Depending on the time of day I can see anywhere between 50 to 100% of the ads on TV being about pharma products.

I'd worry about getting those ones down before I worried about the Internet ones.

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