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Drug ads have long tried to influence patients’ medical choices, directing them to “ask your doctor” if a marketed medication is right for them. But now, pharma companies have an even more powerful tool to start those conversations and turn them into prescriptions: telemedicine.

When a patient sees an ad or visits a manufacturer’s website today, many will find buttons to “talk to a doctor now” about their symptoms. Clicking through will take them to a third-party site that asks questions about their health — and eligibility for the drugmaker’s specific product — before letting them schedule a visit with an online provider.

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