Docs Propose New Info Box for Drug Ads

And Miller adds that information on the drug's approval is already available for those who care to see it; on its Web site, the FDA posts a "summary basis of approval" that includes both the data for the drug, as well as the FDA's rationale for approving it.

More Information = Less Drugs?

Then there is the question of whether additional information highlighting the potential harms of a drug, however unlikely those harms may be, would scare some consumers away from an effective and beneficial drug.

In an accompanying editorial to the new study, Dr. Jerome Avorn and Dr. William Shrank of Harvard Medical School in Boston, who are, in general, supportive of the idea of an additional informational box, nonetheless point out this concern.

"Respondents shown the innovative ads reported that they were less willing to take the statin or platelet inhibitor advertised, even when one was needed, a worrisome outcome," the editorial reads.

On the flip side of this argument, the numerical tables could help consumers understand the true odds of experiencing a side effect, reassuring them about a drug's safety. Listing such information could be seen as an antidote to the FDA-mandated flurry of risks and side effects common to most every prescription drug advertisement, which may deter some consumers from a needed drug.

Still, Lambert says he believes one of the better possible outcomes of such a strategy could be that consumers end up taking fewer drugs overall.

"Doctors must be much more conservative in their use of drugs, using non-drug therapies before drug therapies, using time-tested old drugs before new ones, discontinuing drugs that don't work, respecting patients' own aversion to risk, [and] starting only one drug at a time," he says.

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