Drug Advertisement Claims: Fact or Fiction?

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

According to an alarming new study published in the Archives of Otolaryngology, a majority of the advertisements appearing in leading medical journals aimed at ear, nose and throat specialists are not actually supported by data referenced by the advertisers. Researchers found that only 28 percent of the claims propagated by advertisers were actually backed up by data and 12 percent of the claims were even directly contradictory to the data. While this is certainly a problem, the bigger issue is that doctors often rely on the information in the ad, as the actual literature on the product is often long and obscure.

Advertisements in medicine are simply too lucrative to stop. As Reuters notes, drugmakers are believed to generate from $2 to $5 in sales for each dollar spent on advertising in medical journals. However, is this profit worth the falsification of valuable information? For most companies it is. The question then becomes, who is responsible for knowledge of a drug properties and effects? Is it the drug companies’ responsibility to be completely truthful in advertising, or is it the doctors’ responsibility to study and know every drug they prescribe. Or is it both?

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