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Drug makers are legally required to spend money telling you their products might lead to a series of horrifying side effects, up to and including death.

Needless to say, for the pharmaceutical industry, this presents a communications challenge.


But nearly two decades after television ads for prescription drugs began flooding American homes, drug makers have also perfected their delivery — allowing them to include the information they are obligated to provide while minimizing how scary it might sound. And in interviews, the actors paid to deliver these warnings — bit players in the $5 billion-a-year industry of prescription drug advertising — say there’s an art to it.

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  • Even when they do present the possible adverse effects they use indirection as much as possible. A good example is the DTC ad for one of the erectile dysfunction drugs. The ad talks about “if you experience loss of hearing or vision see a doctor right away.” Would it kill them to say “if you go deaf or blind see a doctor right away?”

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