Which Drugs Live Up to Their Advertised Hype?

Drug manufacturers spend billions to entice consumers to take their meds. Consumer Reports suggests you study the fine print.

Which Drugs Live Up to Their Advertised Hype? Photo (cc) by StockMonkeys.com

Drug commercials are hard to miss, but can you believe them?

For instance, how about the TV ad featuring an older woman with arthritis as she walks along a sandy shore and swims in a lake? Of course, her activities are possible because of her new arthritis drug, or at least that’s what the ad suggests.

Then there’s the ad where a couple in their mid-50s smile at each other over a glass of wine, before sharing a dance and retreating into a bedroom. Again, the ad implies that the tryst is possible because of the latest drug treating erectile dysfunction.

According to Consumer Reports, drugmakers plow billions of dollars into advertising for prescription medications.

In fact, from July 2013 to July 2014, drug manufacturers spent $1.9 billion on ads for just the top 10 drugs alone.

Are the drugs worth all the hype? CR took a look at several drugs to see just how effective they really are.

  • Cialis and Viagra. Used to treat erectile dysfunction, “drugmakers know that millions of men are happy to pay for a pill to improve their sex lives, even if insurance doesn’t cover the cost — about $70 for 10  5-­milligram tablets of Cialis (tadalafil) and $332 for 10  50-milligram tablets of Viagra (sildenafil),” CR said. Although CR said the pills do work, they have notable risk factors, such as vision and hearing loss or a chance of heart attack and stroke.
  • Lyrica. Also known as pregabalin, Lyrica is designed to treat fibromyalgia. It runs about $260 a month. But CR said the benefits of Lyrica as a treatment are small. Plus, there are generics of other fibromyalgia-treatment drugs, such as amitriptyline, gabapentin and paroxetine, available for $106 or less a month.
  • Celebrex. This arthritis drug costs about $181 to $282 per month. It also increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and intestinal bleeding. CR recommends trying exercise and losing weight, plus generic, nonprescription ibuprofen or naproxen to treat arthritis pain.
  • Abilify. With costs exceeding $900 a month, CR said this depression-treating drug provides little benefit to individuals struggling with depression. CR’s verdict on this medication: “Don’t jump to Abilify.” Side effects include heart attack, stroke, weight gain and type- 2 diabetes.

Click here for CR’s verdict on Humira (for Crohn’s disease), Eliquis and Xarelto (for atrial fibrillation), Xeljanz (for rheumatoid arthritis) and Symbicort (for COPD).

What do you think of the advertising and marketing that goes into trying to sell prescription drugs? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Are you spending too much money on name-brand medications? If so, generics are likely a good alternative, but watch this video for a word of caution:

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