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Evening Drug Ad Commercials Lie to Consumers Say Experts

Tim Boyer's picture
Medical commercials

Do you get some of your heath advice by paying attention to those evening news time drug ad commercials that cover bone loss, high cholesterol, back pain and erectile dysfunction? If so, then according to a new report by Consumer Reports on Health you may want to rethink what you are being sold as “health education” when studies show that over 50% of those ads are misleading and another 10% are drug ad lies.

In the May, 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health, consumer experts are warning the public that many of the latest drugs advertised with “You should ask your doctor about...” that you see on TV while watching the evening news are misleading if not downright false.

The following are 4 popular and familiar evening drug ad commercials at fault as reported by Consumer Reports on Health:

Drug Ad Promise #1: You’re still a stud―you just need a little T-Boost to go with that T-Bird

The drug: AndroGel (testosterone) with approximately $1.4 Billion in sales in 2012

The Ad: Middle-aged guy in a Mustang with the top down and wind blowing through perfectly coiffed hair that does not move out of place, describes his relief that his moodiness and low energy can be easily treated with a testosterone supplement.

The Problem: Aside from the unlikelihood that you will look just like the guy in the commercial after you take the testosterone treatment, the ad suggests that a “low T” problem is actually quite common—when it’s really not. Although aging can result in lowered testosterone---depression, obesity and other health causes are more likely to blame.

Consumer Reports states that men should be tested for low testosterone only if the symptoms are more indicative such as loss of muscle mass, hair loss, and shrinking testes. In addition, if testing does show low testosterone, the pros and cons have to be weighed, as taking hormone supplement treatment can result in heart attacks, blood clots, sleep apnea, an enlarged prostate gland and painful breasts.

Drug Ad Promise #2: Look and feel great with fewer bad-skin days

The Drug: Humira (adalimumab) with approximately $4.6 Billion in sales in 2012

The Ad: A woman with psoriasis is shown enjoying trips to the beauty salon again now that her skin has cleared up thanks to her medication.

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The Problem: Humira works by interfering with the body’s immune system which can lead to bad side effects, allergic reactions, an increased risk of tuberculosis and other serious infections. Furthermore, a month’s prescription runs between $2,600 to $5,300, leaving little for a day at the spa or with a hair dresser.

Drug Ad Promise #3: Stronger is better when it comes to fighting cholesterol

The Drug: Crestor (rosuvastatin) with approximately $5.1 Billion in sales in 2012.

The Ad: Clinical trial shows that Crestor helped more patients get their LDL below 100 than Lipitor did.

The Problem: Crestor is expensive and may be overkill in strength for most patients who should begin treatment with lower dose and cheaper statin alternatives. Furthermore, scientific evidence that Crestor prevents more heart attacks and deaths than other, safer brands is weak.

Drug Ad Promise #4: Managing pain is no sweat

The Drug: Cymbalta (duloxetine) with approximately $4.7 Billion in sales in 2012

The Ad: Arthritis and back pain can be relieved without narcotics with this pain reliever.

The Problem: A 2011 review found that Cymbalta’s superiority over a placebo for managing osteoarthritic and back pain is actually modest at best. Furthermore, its marketing for treating depression as well was found to be an expensive option when there are more effective and less expensive antidepressants available.

For another health message that may not be all it’s advertised to be, find out why Consumer Reports on Health warns that an annual physical exam might actually shorten your lifespan.

Image Source: AndroGel commercial

Reference: Consumer Reports on Health May 2014