Drug Ad Interdiction

My favorite celebrity ad featured former US Senator (R-Kansas), and 1996 Presidential candidate BobDole for something called ED.


One of my colleagues REALLY hates those commercials featuring non-medical celebrities who hawk prescription medicines. For instance, if she develops osteoporosis, she’s not going to use Boniva just because actress Sally Field has recommended it in a series of advertisements; I assume she actually has the condition. Among other things, some Boniva ads are misleading, according to Consumer Reports. Google Sally Field Boniva and you’ll see Sally Field – The Boniva Drug Pimp, and other less than flattering characterizations.

Now, actress Blythe Danner is plugging a similar product, Prolia, for a condition she has. The elaborate staging of Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom is unconvincing from a viewer’s POV. Actress Janine Turner, who has chronic dry eye, used to promote Restasis.

Of course, my favorite celebrity ad featured former US Senator (R-Kansas), and 1996 Presidential candidate BobDole for something called ED. The initials are made up by the pharmaceutical companies, in part to avoid addressing embarrassing topics, in this case, erectile dysfunction, a/k/a impotence, for which he was taking Viagra after prostate cancer surgery. But initials are more memorable in pharmaceutical advertising. Indeed the direct-to-consumer drug ads prompt patients ask their doctor for various prescriptions, generally more than what is medically necessary.

I so wish the flood of pharmaceutical ads would end in the US. But we’re quite unlikely to see that genie put back into the bottle.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

5 thoughts on “Drug Ad Interdiction”

  1. Yeah, some of my favorites are for things that are 99% cosmetic with terrifying side effects, such as Lamisil, a toe fungus cream that can lead to sudden death. If I had toe fungus, I think I’d rather keep the toe fungus.

    There’s profit to be had in convincing people they’re sick. It’s a shady business.

    Although the whole Viagra thing is funny to me on a couple of counts. First, that semester I was in econ and we had to invest in something. I won after investing in Pfizer. Two, I was 17/18 at the time, so I was pretty horrified that every five minutes it was another politician’s penis on TV. News would be covering Clinton’s oral sex, commercial break, and then Bob Dole explaining the new way for you to get hard.

    It was… I don’t even know how to describe it. First time I started using the phrase “Decline and fall of Western civilization,” and decided that when I grew up I wouldn’t have a TV.

  2. I dislike all prescription drug ads, as they are mostly dangerous snake oils! Listen sometimes to the warning of side effects, my favorite is when the announcer states , “if you have an erection lasting more than four hours seek medical help”! well, duh!

  3. Roger, I couldn’t agree with you more. I heard about the Sally Field flap. It’s horrendous, how Big Pharma has taken the airwaves, telling us to ask our doctors for these new, dangerous, underexperimented drugs.

    My psychiatrist wanted me to try Abilify, and I replied, “Debilify? Doctor, I refuse to take any drug that is still be advertised on TV and has more to say about deadly side effects than its benefits.”

    If we could get hard booze commercials off TV, and cigarettes, too, why can’t we get this absolute crap off the airwaves? (Rhetorical question. Politicians and the FCC in the pockets of drug and insurance companies.)

    Finally, WHY does Cialis have people in separate bathtubs as their LOGO? Can anyone explain this? Two in on hottub, yes, but what’s the point? Safer sex? Or did his erection get so big there was no room for her in the tub? Just wondering, because Lex and I laugh every time we see the commercial. Peace (and no “four-day events”!), Amy

  4. Twice in the last six months I’ve received some dead tree spam (US Mail) in the form of a fold-out full-color brochure touting a cure for ED, which was something I had not heard of yet. The front of the brochure announced that Medicaid and “most insurance companies” would pay for this amazing product. It was all very upbeat and medical. On the front featured a smiling older white couple, on the inside a pleased looking middle aged black couple. I had to study it carefully to figure out exactly what they were selling.

    They were offering to sell me a penis pump. I kid you not.

  5. I feel your (non-prescription relieved) pain: New Zealand is another country that allows direct-to-consumer prescription advertising. Are there any other countries that allow this? We don’t get all the American ads in New Zealand because it makes no sense to advertise drugs that aren’t subsidised since no one would be willing to pay for them.

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