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TV drug commercials prompt prescriptions

Television commercials for drugs to treat everything from heartburn to impotence have prompted one in eight viewers to get a prescription. But many viewers fail to retain critical information about the drug and possible side effects. TV commercials for prescription drugs have become commonplace since the Food and Drug Administration set up rules and made them legal. //

The pervasive drug ads have a considerable effect -- nearly a third of adults have talked to their doctor about a drug they saw advertised. About 44 percent of those adults then received a prescription for the drug they saw advertised. After watching a commercial for an asthma drug, about a quarter of viewers came away with the mistaken impression that there are drugs that can be used to replace an asthma inhaler.

The study was conducted by interviewing 1,872 people who watched a series of commercials for prescription drugs and 639 other people. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Some consumer groups have complained that the ads encourage viewers to believe they know what drugs are best for them -- pressuring their doctors unnecessarily. Drug ads may drive up health care costs and drug company profits, but the drugs people get may also make them healthier.


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