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OTC Ads Rarely Mention Side Effects

Timothy Haren4 years ago

Mentions of side effects nearly disappear in ads when prescription drugs become over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, Reuters reports.

Balance in Facts Lost

New OTC drugs, regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), feature far fewer warnings of side effects in their ads than when they were prescription drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates prescription drugs, requires that advertisements present a balance of positives and negatives in their ads. The FTC has no such requirement.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA), only 11 percent of OTC ads mentioned side effects, compared to 70 before the transition. The study used 133 TV and print ads of popular, once-prescription OTC drugs.

OTC Drugs Still Have Side Effects

Dr. Jeremy Greene of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who helped conduct the AMA study, said that people dangerously assume drugs have become safer once they become available over-the-counter in stores. Even OTCs as common as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can cause serious side effects which are not included in ads, according to Reuters.

Greene suggests that including the generic names of an OTC drug in ads can help people better educate themselves of the risks and side effects. Having the FDA oversee OTC ads as well may help better communicate risks, Reuters reported.

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