Prescription Warning

Ever watch a commercial for a prescription medication and fixate on whether you just might need it? Well, in the case of a popular class of medications to treat high blood pressure, researchers say that television commercials appear to influence how many medical consumers demand these drugs from their doctors.

A new study conducted by researchers at Cornell University has found that television advertising may be driving the over prescription of statins, which are treated to lower bad LDL cholesterol.

Their analyses suggest that those adults who had been exposed to statin ads were 16 to 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with high cholesterol, and 16 to 22 percent more likely to be using statins. Interestingly, the likelihood of both a diagnosis of high cholesterol and increased statin use was driven almost exclusively by men and women at low risk for future cardiac events. Conversely, those at high risk of heart disease exposed to statin ads on TV were not more likely to be taking a statin.

The authors conclude: “Our findings raise questions about the extent to which direct-to-consumer advertising may promote over-diagnosis and over-treatment for populations where risks may outweigh potential benefits. In addition, we found no evidence of favorable associations between exposure to statins in television advertisements and statin use among those at high risk for future cardiac events. ”

The study was reported recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.