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Add More Facts to Drug Ads, Experts Urge
Date:2/16/2009

Study wants FDA to mandate boxes that clearly state how well medication works

MONDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- People could make better decisions about which drug to choose if all ads carried a facts box clearly stating the medication's pros and cons, a new study suggests.

"People just don't have access to information about how well drugs work," said Dr. Steven Woloshin, an associate professor of medicine and community and family medicine at Dartmouth Medical School and co-author of the study. "They get exposed to billions of dollars of ads, but the ads don't tell them the most fundamental information they need."

A facts box would provide that information, Woloshin said.

Currently, drug advertising can be deceptive, Woloshin said. "For example, they say this drug reduces your risk of stroke by 30 percent, but they won't tell you 30 percent of what," he said. "That can be very misleading."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires pharmaceutical companies to list the risks associated with a drug but not its benefits, Woloshin said. "But in order to make any sense of side effects, you have to know what's the benefit," he said. "Is it worth exposing myself to the chance of these side effects? You only can decide that if you know how well the drug works."

For the study, published in the Feb. 17 online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine, Woloshin's team conducted two trials to see what choices consumers would make when shown drug ads that did and did not include a fact box -- essentially a table that quantified outcomes with and without the drug. Participants looked at ads for two prescription heartburn medications and two cardiovascular drugs.

Overall, the researchers said, the addition of facts boxes to prescription drug ads resulted in consumers making better choices of drugs for their symptoms and being better informed about the benefits of drugs used for preventio
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