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If you feel inundated with pharma ads, it might have something to do with your taste in TV shows.

Depending on which show you’re watching, prescription drug makers are responsible for as many as 38 percent of ads during commercial breaks — or as few as virtually none at all. That’s according to data from, a company that tracks TV ads and their impact. The data cover the valuable 8-10 p.m. primetime slot over the 12 months that concluded at the end of July.


Drug advertisers usually don’t target down to the level of specific TV shows when they’re buying ad spots. Though there are exceptions: when drug marketers launched the statin Lipitor in the late ’90s, they narrowed in on the hospital drama “ER” because it was one of the hottest shows on TV and its medical theme sent all the right messages. “We wanted a splash,” said Bob Ehrlich, who led that launch and now works as an industry consultant.

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