Medicine: Excess Marks the Spot

The FDA blows the whistle on abuses in new-drug ads

Every year scores of new drugs are launched on the American market. Most of them are variations on an existing medicine; the greatest distinction of the newcomer usually is a catchier name. Of the 96 drugs approved last year, only three were judged by the FDA to represent important therapeutic gains. As a result, to push their sometimes unneeded new products, drug companies pour their energy and money into advertising and promotion. Last year $215 million worth of advertisements were placed in the 150...

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