Brian Maranan Pineda
ADS AREN'T REQUIRED TO GIVE YOU ALL OF THE BAD NEWS
Drugs aren't always the best solution to a health concern, but you wouldn't know that from watching a commercial. For example, ads for the sleep aid Rozerem proclaim the med's ability to help you fall asleep, but they say nothing about whether it helps you stay asleep - and it's not clear that it does, according to a comparison of drug efficacy by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University. Behavioral therapy, on the other hand, which teaches healthy sleep-inducing habits - such as not watching TV in bed and resisting naps - helps 70 percent to 80 percent of those with chronic insomnia fall and stay asleep.
Drugs don't work on every patient either, but ads aren't required to publicize success rates. Ads for the toenail fungus drug Lamisil, for instance, don't reveal that it eliminates the fungus completely in only 38 percent of people who take it. And for some people, a drug's side effects are worse than the original symptoms: Dee Johnson, the woman with RLS, eventually quit taking Requip because she found the nausea unbearable; she now takes three different drugs to keep her symptoms in check.
Of course, all ads offer the promise of an improved life. Your laundry detergent won't make you happier or more organized, though you might get that impression from commercials. But the stakes are higher with drug advertising: "Drug companies aren't selling shampoo or frozen dinners," says Burkholder. "It's crucial that these ads present risk-and-benefit information in a balanced way."
THE BOTTOM LINE: Before you take a drug, ask your doctor about its efficacy rate and known side effects, as well as whether there are lifestyle changes that may work for your condition.