More than half of all insured Americans are now taking at least one long-term prescription medication to manage a chronic condition, and almost two thirds of women over 20 regularly take at least one medication. We have officially become a nation of pill poppers. The saddest part of the whole mess is how many people are taking medications for conditions like hypertension and elevated cholesterol – things that could be at least somewhat managed with better diet and a little more exercise.
So how much of the increase in prescription usage is linked to pharmaceutical advertising on TV? In the last decade the drug industry has launched a huge advertising campaign – next time you’re watching TV, see how many ads go by before you see at least one for a prescription. The Colorado Health Insurance Insider has addressed this problem before, and it seems that lawmakers are starting to notice the impact that TV advertising of pharmaceuticals is having. Regulators will be considering a proposal tomorrow that would require more of a focus on the side effects mentioned during TV drug ads, including telling the consumer how to go about reporting side effects to the FDA. Studies have shown that with the current advertising tactics, 80% of viewers are able to recall benefits of drugs after watching a commercial, but only 20% correctly remember the side effects. Maybe if the not-so-warm-and-fuzzy aspects of the drugs were made a little more prominent, consumers would not be so eager to get their docs to write prescriptions for the latest and greatest drugs.
Since ever-increasing pharmaceutical costs account for a large chunk of the rising cost of health care and health insurance premiums, it would seem that reducing the number of prescription drugs that Americans take every day would go a long way towards reducing the overall cost of health care in this country. Of course, that’s not the trend that the pharmaceutical industry would like to see, since every new prescription means more money for their CEOs and shareholders. But health insurance companies and the American public should be striving towards reducing the number of new prescriptions, since a lowered overall cost of health care benefits just about all of us.