By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


Understanding and Assessing Medical Advertising Part II

Last month, we started looking at all the advertising on TV promoting medical products that are nothing short of miraculous. This time, I want to dig a bit deeper into understanding medical propaganda and how you, as a consumer, can be more aware of how to question and evaluate these claims for your benefit.

Commonly used techniques include talking up a "magic ingredient." The suggestion that some near miraculous discovery makes a product exceptionally effective gives the impression that a particular product owes its effectiveness to a "magic" ingredient. In clinical trials, this miracle ingredient has been linked to the desired result. Another misleading practice is the testimonial. A famous person who uses a product endorses it, touting the subsequent results as amazing. Misleading words are used to suggest a positive meaning without actually making any guarantee. It is suggested that buying a product will lead to the desired result.

Learn how to question the claims being made. How does product X do what is promised? If an ad offers solutions without a specific process, this should raise a red flag. What knowledge do the celebrity promoters have in the area of medical science and what else did they do to obtain the desired response? Often the celebrity is or was in top physical condition. Also, who is the doctor who promotes a product? What are his or her credentials and are they currently practicing? In this age of internet, it should be possible to look up individuals offering testimonials and see their credentials. What are the risks and what information is being left out?

Evaluate the ad. Advertisements are, of course, meant to sell products. There is no guarantee that a product will deliver unless it is backed by the FDA. While all consumers are looking for a silver bullet, it is important to remember that they rarely exist, and if they did, they would have the full backing of the medical community and individual providers.

It all boils down to being a wary consumer when you are watching TV ads or searching online. Many times, ads found online are disguised as medically factual articles and/or research. Here is a reminder to look for the following hallmarks to spot fake news articles regarding medical products:

-No clear definition of how a product works,

-Lack of specifics on who a recommending doctor is, and

-Offering a simple and too good to be true solution.

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Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....