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Voluntary Restrictions on Drug Ads

The country’s top drug companies pledged yesterday to adhere to self-imposed restrictions on drug advertising. Critics argue that the guidelines, which aren’t legally binding, are insufficient. USA Today summarizes the guidelines in Drug Ad Guidelines Hold a Few Surprises; Associated Press writers consider the downfalls of the restrictions in New Drug Ad Guidelines Unlikely to Satisfy.

Pharmaceutical companies aren’t inherently evil, but they have to keep up with their competition to make a profit. All drugs have good and bad attributes. If the industry as a whole follows the guidelines and actually shares information in their ads (shocking concept, huh?), the voluntary restrictions might be enough. If happy people with perfect, side effect-free lives remain the standard, then greater regulation will be necessary. We have to start somewhere.

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Education or Advertising?

Pfizer, the maker of Relpax, announced a new migraine education – and advertising – campaign today. Called “Be Stronger Than Your Migraine,” the company says the campaign provides migraine patients with tools to identify how migraine affects their lives, recognize how they interfere with their own treatment and ways to have a better relationship with their doctors.

There’s not much information available on it yet, but I’ve requested the “toolkit.” At the surface, it appears to be little more than a direct-to-consumer drug ad. You know the line: If you tell your doctor to prescribe Relpax, you’ll be in control and your pain will go away.

Am I being cynical? Yes. Volatile? Certainly. I’m tired of drug companies and media outlets telling me that I just have to be strong and my headaches will go away. Yes, it’s important to be assertive with your doc and to think about ways to become more involved in your treatment. It’s also important to grieve the losses that you’ve had because of your headaches. And to think critically about who is giving you such advice.

Mostly I’m angry because Pfizer, like many other drug companies, is promoting the idea of the miracle cure for migraine. Relpax might be the drug that improves migraine pain. But it isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s dangerous to believe in a miracle cure, because you’ll be crushed if it doesn’t exist for you.

This might turn out to be a great and empowering campaign and I’ll have egg on my face. I’ll share the information with you when I receive the materials. You can also look into it for yourself. Yahoo! has the press release, the campaign site has an overview and the Relpax website has more detailed information.

I have a Relpax prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. Who knows, maybe it’ll be my miracle drug. In any case, you should know that one of the reasons I started this blog is because so much migraine information online is from advertisements thinly disguised as education campaigns. You can be sure that I’ll never push one medication or treatment over another.