Prescription drug costs on the rise; so are the TV ads promoting them

“Pharmaceutical advertising has grown more in the past four years than any other leading ad category,” said Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, a consulting firm that tracks multimedia advertising. It exceeded $6 billion last year, with television picking up the lion’s share, according to Kantar data.

Shows such as the major network’s evening news programs, the comedy “Mike & Molly” and daytime drama “General Hospital” are heavy with drug ads, Kantar data show.

But the proliferation of drug advertisements has generated new controversy, in part because the ads inevitably promote high-priced drugs, some of which doctors say have limited practical utility for the average patient-viewer.

The United States is one of two countries — the other is New Zealand — that allows DTC advertising, a long-standing practice that became more common in the mid-1980s after the FDA issued new rules. Most advertising was in print. But more television advertising began appearing when some of the rules were relaxed a decade later.

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