Friday, May 11, 2018

Drug Advertising: New Zealand and the USA are Right, and the Rest of the World is Wrong

A New Jersey Star-Ledger letter, Drug advertising dangerous, argues against prescription drug advertising, concluding

There are only two countries in the world that allow direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising: New Zealand and the USA. I wonder why?

The implication—the author doesn’t answer his own question—is that Pharmaceutical companies engage in deceptive advertising because they “put profits over people.” But who is really putting dollars over patient health?

I left these comments:

“There are only two countries in the world that allow direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising: New Zealand and the USA. I wonder why?”

Because New Zealand and the USA are the only two countries that respect pharma companies’ freedom of speech and consumers’ right to take the responsibility to rationally judge for themselves what medical options there are. Other countries—all of whom have some form of socialized, government-funded healthcare—would rather put cost above healthcare needs. They’d rather let people suffer and die needlessly rather than spend the money, as their systems go broke. It’s easier to get away with their blood savings when people are less likely to be informed of all of the options available.

False advertising can be dealt with through criminal fraud laws. Otherwise, government should protect the rights of the pharmaceutical companies to advertise the life-enhancing, life-saving prescription drugs they produce and of consumers who want to be informed. Anyone is free to ignore the advertisements, or to refuse to buy the drugs. But, for Levin and his ilk to demand to use the government’s guns to outlaw the advertisements is just plain thuggery. We should prefer live-and-let-live. It is immoral, not to mention unconstitutional, to legally ban drug advertising. It inhibits free trade and free speech, two inalienable individual rights.


When governments pay, they have a vested incentive to control the treatment narrative. Another important question to ask is, “All but two countries in the world, New Zealand and the USA, legally ban prescription drug advertising. Why is that?” Maybe it’s because state bureaucrats don't want to be bothered by more informed consumers asking about other treatment options or learning about new advanced drug options that are more costly than the state wants to spend. Can there be any other reason?

Related Reading:

Pharmaphobia—Thomas P. Stossel

On Mylan’s EpiPen Pricing Controversy

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