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Up to 60 percent of drug ads on TV make false health claims

Published: September 18, 2013
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U.S. consumers should be very wary when they watch advertisements for pharmaceutical products. According to a study published in the prestigious Journal of General Internal Medicine, up to 60 percent of the claims in TV drug ads may mislead the viewer. 

The number of misleading claims made on consumer-targeted prescription and non-prescription drug advertisements which appear on late night TV was described as “overwhelming”.

For the past decade policymakers and researchers have discussed the issue of drug advertising on TV, which allegedly result in people taking medications they do not need.

One of the lead researchers of the study, Adrienne E. Faerber of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, said:

“Healthcare consumers need unrestricted access to high-quality information about health, but these TV drug ads had misleading statements that omitted or exaggerated information. These results conflict with arguments that drug ads are helping inform consumers.”

The study analyzed the Vanderbilt TV News Archive, which includes all nightly news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC since 1968 and on CNN since 1992. The researchers specifically examined advertisements that appeared at the 6:30 pm EST period.

A total of 168 TV advertisements for prescription and over-the-counter drugs aired between 2008 and 2010 were analyzed by the researchers, who tried to identify any claims that were strongly emphasized in the ad.

A group of experts then analyzed these claims and determined whether they were truthful, potentially misleading, or outright false.

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