Without a doctor’s recommendation, how could people know if the medication was appropriate or safe?
Can anyone remember life before Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising with its notorious “Ask Your Doctor” ads? The only thing laypeople knew about prescription drugs came from the ads they peeked at in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in the doctor’s waiting room.
The ads were full of vaguely ominous terms—nulligravida? hemodialysis?—as well as side effects and overdose treatments that no one understood or wanted to understand. But one night in 1997, as Americans watched an episode of Touched by an Angel on television, they were touched by something else unexpected: an ad for a prescription allergy pill called Claritin®, promoted directly to the consumer!
Prescription drugs had never been sold directly to the public before, because, without a doctor’s recommendation, how could people know if the medication was appropriate or safe?
Soon after Claritin, ads for Xenical®, Meridia®, Propecia®, Paxil®, Prozac®, Vioxx®, Viagra®, Singulair®, Nasonex®, Allegra®, Flonase®, Pravachol®, Zyrtec®, Zocor®, Flovent®, and Lipitor® appeared. And, thanks to the World Wide Web, which appeared at the same time as DTC advertising, the world of diseases and prescription drugs was soon open to anyone who could operate a mouse.