When you take a prescribed drug, such as a statin and listen to all the side effects repeated on TV drug advertisements, does the information wean you away from taking your prescribed medication--because your doctor never mentioned all those side effects or only a few? How do TV ads about prescription drugs influence you?
For example, the pharmaceutical drug Zocor, a statin, prescribed to prevent heart attacks has been found, researchers say may help prevent cancer as well. A Dutch study, which looked at 20,000 people, found those who took statins had about a 20 percent reduced risk of cancer. But on American TV programs, you see repeated advertisements about statin brands such as Lipitor or Crestor and several other brands whose names stay in memory. How do you react to the ads when the side effects are explained?
Do you watch people dancing, traveling, and having fun? Or do you listen to the medley of side effects, and if you do, do the repeated side effects wean you away from your present medications?
Seniors are concerned about the side effects of a constant barrage of statin advertisements on TV and radio throughout the day and night. Television advertising may drive over-diagnosis of high cholesterol and over-treatment with statins, according to a new study by Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe from Cornell University in the US and colleagues.
It appears that a trip to the doctor inquiring about statins advertised on TV often leads to a prescription. The work appears online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, published by Springer.
Television advertising may drive over-diagnosis of high cholesterol and over-treatment with statins, according to a new study¹ by Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe from Cornell University in the US and colleagues. It appears that a trip to the doctor enquiring about statins advertised on TV often leads to a prescription. The work appears online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine², published by Springer. Also check out another study, "Can Credence Advertising Effects Be Isolated? - University of Georgia."
What do statins frequently advertised on TV actually prevent?
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and high levels of LDL-cholesterol, or 'bad' cholesterol, are a major contributor. Statins have been proven to reduce LDL-cholesterol, but do they also have a role to play in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease? The jury is still out. Check out the March 7, 2013 press release, "The side effects of statin ads."
Statins are advertised on television with the aim of educating the population about health risks and encouraging people to seek medical advice, relevant diagnostic tests and appropriate treatment. Niederdeppe and colleagues explored whether exposure to direct-to-consumer advertising of statins was related to high cholesterol diagnosis and statin use among men and women at high, moderate, or low risk for future cardiac events.
The authors looked at how often 106,685 American adults were potentially exposed to direct-to- consumer advertising of statin drugs on national, cable and local television between 2001-2007. They also gathered data on whether participants reported being diagnosed with high cholesterol, whether or not they had taken a statin in the previous year, as well as their risk factors for coronary heart disease.
The study's analyses suggest that adults exposed to statin ads were more likely to be diagnosed with high cholesterol
Their analyses suggest that those adults who had been exposed to statin ads were 16 to 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with high cholesterol, and 16 to 22 percent more likely to be using statins. Interestingly, the likelihood of both a diagnosis of high cholesterol and increased statin use was driven almost exclusively by men and women at low risk for future cardiac events.
Check out the article, "Effect of Direct to Consumer Advertising for Cholesterol Treatment." In that other study, the question arose whether listening to the side effects of drugs advertised on TV motivated consumers to stop taking those drugs that they may have been prescribed by their physician but not told all the possible side effects.
Conversely, those at high risk of heart disease exposed to statin ads on TV were not more likely to be taking a statin.
The authors conclude: "Our findings raise questions about the extent to which direct-to-consumer advertising may promote over-diagnosis and over-treatment for populations where risks may outweigh potential benefits. In addition, we found no evidence of favorable associations between exposure to statins in television advertisements and statin use among those at high risk for future cardiac events. "
Older adults who watch a lot of TV in the daytime or even the news after dark are constantly bombarded with advertisements about statins and other drugs. From the winter's constant depiction of coughing and sneezing or flu symptoms to the spring and summer's frequent exposure to ads showing how over-the-counter or prescription drugs help stop allergies that cause sneezing in public places, the high pressure sales of drugs as well as medical equipment for older adults continues to bombard the TV air waves, with everything from warnings on the radio of impending medical conditions to suggestions of medicines.
For example, many over-the-counter drugs are advertised on TV and radio with no warning that they can raise the blood pressure in people susceptible to high blood pressure. No warnings that the drugs may contain vasoconstrictors are noted to warn older adults of risks versus reward.
The TV set will show a couple having fun and then broadcast a voice-over narrator speaking fast about what the side effects are or can be. The senior is advised to talk to the doctor to find out whether the drug is right for the individual. Seniors are concerned about over-treatment in a situation where risks outweigh rewards for the older adult.
On the other hand, the majority of senior discounts appear not to be highly focused on healthy foods, organic fresh produce, or objects frequently bought by seniors. Instead senior discounts are mainly for fast-food or highly processed foods. Exceptions, of course are for discount travel and some health food stores that have sales on certain days of the year. Also see the article, "Statin drugs news, articles and information."
Some food markets have senior days when there's a discount on anything, even fresh produce. But most mainstream supermarkets may exclude organic produce when they give discounts, mainly to get people to buy the commercial produce in greater quantities than the more expensive organic fruit and vegetables. If you look at coupons, with the exception of hygiene products, most food coupons are for highly processed packaged foods, not the organic whole foods fresh from the farm variety.
Niederdeppe J et al (2013). Direct-to-consumer television advertising exposure, diagnosis with high cholesterol, and statin use. Journal of General Internal Medicine. The Journal of General Internal Medicine is the official journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine.