Forbes ran an interesting piece last month on the fine line in Big Pharma between promoting a new drug and presenting a misleading picture of its risk and benefits. In fact, the American Food & Drug Administration regularly singles out drug companies that use questionable language to imply or suggest their drug is superior to similar treatments, and watches closely for the omission of dangerous risk and side effect information. Forbes recently ran an online slide show of the 10 most misleading drug ads that have been slapped with FDA warning letters.
For example, actress Brooke Shields is a professional celebrity-for-hire (Volkswagen-Ford-Coppertone-LaZBoy-Colgate-Tupperware) and also spokeswoman for Latisse, a prescription eyelash thickening agent. Yes, there is such a thing. In September 2009, the FDA went after Latisse’s maker, Allergan, for a website that downplayed the drug’s serious risks which include cornea infections, hair growth outside of the treatment area, and permanent darkening of eye color.*
Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen, who is a fierce critic of drug ads, observed:
“It’s almost impossible for the public to actually parse the ads and come to their own independent conclusions.”
But Dr. Nissen is suspicious of most drugs that are advertised because he thinks that the marketing campaigns distract and mislead consumers. His advice: avoid the most heavily advertised drugs and stick to generics. Continue reading