It was about 10 years ago that Americans first heard and read advertisements in the media concerning prescription medications. Today, the public is inundated with advertisements extolling the virtues of many drugs, from Lipitor to Viagra.

It was about 10 years ago that Americans first heard and read advertisements in the media concerning prescription medications. Today, the public is inundated with advertisements extolling the virtues of many drugs, from Lipitor to Viagra.


Are such advertisements beneficial to the public? The drug industry believes so, but the medical profession has its doubts.


Obviously, the pharmaceutical industry wants to extol the benefits of their medications but they are also required to mention their risks.


Another type of medical television advertising is now under discussion in the Senate - advertisements for medical devices. Many medical professionals are concerned that they pose an even greater risk to the viewing public than do ads for drugs.


The devices advertised include those used in hip replacements or stents that keep open arteries.


These ads, unlike those advertising drugs, are not required to present a balanced view, such as discussing the various risks associated with such devices.


This raises the question whether individuals who view these ads will get a true picture of the risks that are present when undergoing surgery to implant the devices. This can result in unrealistic expectations and overuse of these surgical procedures.


The companies that advertise the devices believe the ads help educate the public and inform them of various options available to them to treat their malady.


It has been recommended to place a ban on advertisements regarding medical devices so more can be learned concerning their own risks and benefits.


There is also ongoing discussion in Congress concerning whether to limit or discontinue pharmaceutical advertising.


Since such advertising was started, each year the pharmaceutical industry has spent an increasing amount of money in an attempt to inform the public about their products.


As in medical device advertising, it is claimed that such advertising can result in overuse of the product.


So, in the future, expect to see some changes in advertisements regarding not only drugs, but also medical devices.


Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.