When is the last time you went to watch your favorite television show or listen to your favorite radio program and you were able to do so without being exposed to an advertisement from a pharmaceutical company? It feels like almost every day we are introduced to a new drug that claims to improve our lives. It is true that modern medicine can greatly improve our quality of life, but all drugs carry risks, and the risks are often minimized by the pharmaceutical companies when promoting their products.
This issue of drug promotion was recently studied by a group of researchers from Cornell University and published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The researchers reviewed the effects of advertisements involving a class of cholesterol drugs known as statins, which include Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, and others. Statins block the body’s natural creation of cholesterol. However, the widespread use of statins can include potential side effects that may increase the risk of diabetes, muscle injury, kidney damage, and other health problems.
Researchers found that exposure to advertisements for these heavily marketed drugs increased the odds of an individual being diagnosed with high cholesterol. They looked at data on more than 100,000 adults and the frequency of direct-to-consumer advertising on television from 2001 to 2007. They found that exposure to television commercials for drugs like Lipitor and Crestor resulted in a 16% to 20% increase in the chances of being diagnosed with high cholesterol. Among both men and women, seeing the ads increased the chances of using statins by 16% to 22%, but those who began using statins after watching the commercials were almost exclusively those with a low risk of heart disease.
This is alarming because a recent study in the medical journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, found that statin users overall face about a 9% increase in the risk of developing diabetes. The research suggests that people didn’t get what they bargained for when they asked their doctor about drugs like Lipitor. Lipitor advertising suggested that the drug would help people maintain their healthy lifestyle, but in reality, many have been left with serious health complications like diabetes instead.
Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication and be sure to ask questions about the risks associated with new medication. A consultation with a Lipitor lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries sustained by you or a loved one.