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Direct-Consumer Drug Advertising
Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising
Direct-to-consumer drug advertising of pharmaceutical drugs is a hot-button issue. Is it ethical, or does it lead to self-diagnosis and take advantage of people who have hope for a cure? Currently, New Zealand and the United States are the only two countries that allow this kind of direct-to-consumer advertising to take place, which calls into question why other countries do not allow the same, if the practice is ethical. From a deontological point-of-view, using Kant's categorical imperative, this paper will address whether the direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceutical drugs is ethical or unethical. According to the deontological approach, one's duty is to do what is morally right and avoid what is morally wrong, regardless of what the consequences of those actions may be (Beauchamp, 1991; Waller, 2005). Because that is the case, there are moral questions raised that have to be considered with something as potentially life-altering as a medication.
According to Immanuel Kant (1964), the motives of the person who carries out the actions are what make the actions right or wrong, not the outcome of those actions. With that argument in mind, the only good thing in life is good will. People who have that and act from it are people who are intrinsically good, meaning that they are good without any kind of qualification (Beauchamp, 1991; Kamm, 1996). If they need a motive to be good, they are not intrinsically good, because they must be "bribed" in order to get them to "do the right thing." Unless that right thing is done with no ulterior motive or desire in mind, it - technically - cannot be "right" at all. What people do is not as important as the reasons behind why they do it, and that is behind the entire argument that Kant (1964) presents. It is, ultimately, at the heart of many deontological issues (Kamm, 2007; Salzmann, 1995).
Taking that argument to the issue of direct-to-consumer drug advertising, it can be seen that the reasons behind the advertising have to be determined. Are these pharmaceuticals being advertised because the company that makes and/or sells them wants people to get better and feel well, or are they being advertised in order to sell more of them and make a larger profit. It is not entirely possible to know which one of these reasons is behind the advertising of these products, but it is relatively easy to speculate. Originally, these medications could only be advertised to doctors. There was no direct-to-consumer advertising of medications or other kinds of pharmaceuticals that needed a prescription for use. In most countries, with the exception of the U.S. And New Zealand, this is still the case. In the UK and Europe, for example, one will not see advertisements for pharmaceuticals on television, because it is against the law to advertise them to consumers directly.
How many people are helped by these advertisements, versus how many people are harmed, is something that is, again, difficult to prove. Some studies have indicated that the rates of illnesses such as anxiety and depression have been rising dramatically in the U.S. In recent years. The only way this can really be measured, of course, is by the number of people who are taking anti-anxiety and/or antidepressant medications. If more people are taking them, are they taking them because these illness rates are really rising, or because so many advertisements have convinced them that they are sick and need a medication to make them feel better about themselves and the world around them. It is no secret that many people live very stressed-out, busy lives today. That could certainly lead to depression and anxiety. Still, it appears as though the rates of these kinds of illnesses began to rise when the marketing of medications for them became direct-to-consumer in nature. One could argue that is just coincidence, but not everyone will believe that to be the case.
Another reason that it is difficult to believe the direct-to-consumer marketing of pharmaceuticals is ethical is due to how much money the pharmaceutical companies spend each year to ensure that their advertisements appear on television, in magazines, and just about everywhere else. This makes the drug they are advertising a common, household name, and makes it seem much more acceptable…[continue]
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