I really don’t pay much attention to drug ads anymore. I feel I’ve learned everything I need to know about 4-hour erections, how the Flying Nun got grounded by osteoporosis, and how it’s a little green monster that causes my toenail fungus.
But sometimes ads seek you out.
Today I revisited my old stomping grounds, giving a guest lecture on media ethics at the University of Minnesota journalism school. And a student came up after class waving this full-page color ad he saw yesterday in the Star Tribune newspaper.
It was a Zetia drug ad. The banner promotes the drug’s “different way to help lower cholesterol.”
But the student drew my attention to the bottom of the ad, and the ad copy:
Unlike some statins, ZETIA has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.
Oh, but it can lower cholesterol. And the ad mentions that six times.
We need to help people get smarter about sniffing out studies that only show results on test scores, on surrogate markers, on intermediate endpoints – studies that seem to suggest that risk factors for disease are, themselves, diseases. We need to help people think about whether findings really made a difference in peoples’ lives.
The student who brought me the ad sniffed out the story immediately. We need more like him.
Coincidentally, also today we posted a review of a story on HealthNewsReview.org that was flawed by failing to address this very issue. But this was a news story, not an ad. Room for improvement.