TV networks’ drug ad dependency becoming more clear. Who’s the stooge?

Posted By


Last week, Steven Brill asked on the Columbia Journalism Review website, “Are Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley and Brian Williams hooked on Cymbalta?” Excerpt:

Every time I suffer through the (simultaneously timed) commercial breaks on one of the network evening news shows I wish I could read a story about prescription drug advertising on television. I’ll bet these ads now account for two-thirds or more of revenues for the network news shows, whose viewer demographics are apparently perfect targets for drugs directed at older people with erectile dysfunction, withering bones, dry eyes, insomnia, lung malfunction (as illustrated by an elephant sitting on some guy’s chest), incontinence, and whatever it is that is cured by something called Cymbalta, whose ads I think I saw on all three shows the other night.

To what extent does the federal government’s decision to allow, beginning in the mid-1990s, such direct-to-consumer ads keep these once-revered nightly news shows afloat?

This week, I learned that CBS apparently rejected an ad promoting the new movie, “The Three Stooges,” because it “makes light of prescription drug ads.” Read more on John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog and links therein. Here’s the movie ad:


You might also like

Comments (4)

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.

Joyce Griffith

April 4, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Go ahead and be upset. You should be. I started putting together information for a story I wanted to write on Rx drug advertising and quickly learned it’s a huge piece of the advertising economy. I believe the continual promotion of medical “solutions” is determintal to our health, but am puzzled about how it could be proved or eliminated. Keep up the good work.

David Finer

April 9, 2012 at 2:47 am

The US and New Zealand are the only countries in the world which allow DTCA (Direct-to-Consumer-Advertising) of Rx drugs. From what I have read, several studies demonstrate concomitant deleterious effects, among them increased medicalisation and “disease-mongering”, hiking drug costs for medically unjustifiable uses or products, over-treatment , etc. The Three Stooges ad pokes lighthearted fun at manipulative drug advertising, thus highlighting these disturbing developments. The rejection by CBS shows the networks are more interested in ad sales from Big Pharma than public health and freedom of speech. I doubt if anyone will be particularly surprised by this, but beyond protesting such obvious self-interested censorship, popular protest should seek to change existing laws to ban DTCA and continue to maintain the ban in Europe and elsewhere, against the constant siege of the pharmaceutical industry and its stooges.