Eight voices weigh in on the topic in an online debate on the NYT website.
Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine:
"The argument that ads educate consumers is self-evidently absurd. No one should look to an investor-owned company for objective, unbiased information about products it sells. Do we ask the Ford dealer whether his cars are any good?"
James P. Othmer, former advertising creative director:
"...relying upon network news pharmaceutical ads as a cultural touchstone, a recent visitor to our planet would think that when we are young our legs can't stop moving, that we menstruate four times a year, and we are ravaged by S.T.D.'s (despite taking great measures not to get pregnant), and we are extremely depressed; when we're middle-aged we desperately want to get pregnant but can't, perhaps because most men can't achieve an erection (despite the fact that many others are afflicted with four-hour "reactions"), and we are also bald, overweight and extremely depressed; and when we're old we are arthritic, forgetful, still depressed, riddled with cancer and either can't urinate at all or pee so much we have to wear diapers."
Jerry Avorn, Harvard internist:
"Unfortunately, the genie is probably out of the bottle on this. The industry and its allies in Congress will whine about the First Amendment to defend their right to advertise, and will probably win. Nor is taxing those ads likely to survive a legal challenge. Our best hope is for a newly emboldened F.D.A. to require the companies to provide a much fairer depiction of risks and benefits in these ads -- something that is clearly within its power. But as long as the nation spends $2 on these drug ads for every $1 spent on the agency regulating the industry, this combination of promotional incontinence and federal impotence will continue to generate considerable depression."