Drug Ads: A Prescription For Controversy

Consumers accustomed to the usual barrage of ads are getting used to a new species of message: the prescription-drug pitch. Just pick up a women's magazine and see Ortho Pharmaceutical hawking its birth-control pill. And there's Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, telling women about its new Norplant long-lasting contraceptive. Or flip through periodicals as diverse as The New Yorker and Popular Mechanics, where you'll find Merck & Co. reminding men to ask their doctors about prostate disease. Television blares out its stream of messages about patches that help a smoker quit. All told, drugmakers spend some $200 million a year to advertise about a dozen prescription products.

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