When prescription drugs become available over-the-counter, advertisers start spotlighting the benefits and downplaying the risks, a new study finds.
Researchers scrutinized ads for four drugs that have made the transition and found only 11 percent of ads mentioned side effects after the drugs became available without a prescription versus 70 percent before.
"In many, many cases information about risks simply disappeared from the ads once the drugs became over-the-counter," said Dr. Jeremy Greene of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who led the work. "A commitment to fair balance in drug promotion is clearly lost when a drug moves from prescription-only to over-the-counter status."
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was supported by CVS Caremark. It includes a sample of 133 television and print direct-to-consumer ads for Claritin (generically known as loratidine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Xenical/Alli (orlistat) and Prilosec (omeprazole).