This is easily the craziest thing about American TV when you move here from abroad—not just that it’s full of pharmaceutical ads, but that they’re less ads and more, like, speed readings of lengthy lists of side effects accompanied by footage of elderly people walking on beaches https://t.co/ilyHW1afNS
— Tom Gara (@tomgara) March 8, 2021
Pharmaceutical advertisements are only legal in two countries, the United States and New Zealand, whereas almost every other country has banned them due to ethical and financial concerns. Criticisms from doctors and healthcare workers routinely center on the idea that the ads promote medicines that may not be necessary for some among a host of other issues related to the billions of dollars that go toward the ads instead of medical research.
Others believe the advertisements treat those seeking help like customers instead of patients.
Pharmaceutical companies began launching ads for drugs in the 1970s but faced a backlash from the FDA and were officially banned in 1983, according to STAT News. The ban was later partially lifted as long as companies included side effects and other notifications.
Claritin managed to find a loophole in the FDA rules and began running ads without side effect notices in the early 1990s.
The FDA then gave pharmaceutical companies even more leeway by allowing them to simply tell viewers where they can find more information about the drug, and by 1998 drug companies were spending billions on advertisements, according to Ad Age.