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A Screenful of Sugar?

Prescription Drug Websites Investigated


Jon C. Schommer and Lewis H. Glinert

With drug information rapidly migrating to the Web, the chronically poor standards of drug information available to consumers in the developed and the developing world are being further compromised. This book offers insight into the uncharted waters of prescription drug information and promotion on the internet and suggests how it might be transformed into an unprecedented agent for good. It traces the social and political history of prescription drug information and marketing to Western consumers, offers a social and communicative profile of prescription drug Web sites, and evaluates the most widely used sources of prescription drug information, from government organizations and information companies and TV-related sites, to health service provider sites, manufacturers’ brand sites, and social media, including YouTube and Wikipedia. The focus throughout is on practical outcomes: How can information for consumer decision making be optimized and how can consumers use it responsibly?
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Chapter One: Prescription Drug Information For Consumers: How Did We Get Here?



Prescription Drug Information For ConsumersHow Did We Get Here?

Over 500 million times a day in the United States, individuals make the decision to take or not to take a prescription medication. Arguably, this decision is the most frequently occurring health care event in society. It far outpaces the 6 million daily visits to the pharmacy (Schondelmeyer, 2009), the 2.6 million daily visits to the physician’s office (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011), the 123,287 daily hospital inpatient procedures, and the 108,041 daily hospital discharges (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). The use of medications is probably the only type of treatment we experience on a daily basis. In 80% of cases, chronic diseases are prevented and managed with medications (McGinnis, Strand & Webb, 2010). In any given week, 81% of U.S. adults take at least one medication, and nearly one-third take five or more different medications (Kaufman, Kelly, Rosenberg, Anderson & Mitchell, 2002; The Chain Pharmacy Industry Profile, 2001). Over a lifetime, it is estimated that a typical American will take 14,000 pills (Camporesi, 2011). When one considers that a 60-year span of adulthood is about 22,000 days, the frequency with which we interact with medications is astounding.

Taking medicines is not only a frequently occurring health care event; it also interfaces with almost all other aspects of our health care. For example, four out of five people who visit a physician leave with at...

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