TV ads can be deceiving about prescriptions



December 21, 2018 - 1:58 PM

Dear Dr. Roach: In all the warnings you see for prescription drugs on TV and in print, it seems like a disproportionally high number of them have some tie-in to tuberculosis. They say to get tested for it and don’t take the medicine if you’ve had it or if you know someone who had it. Regular over-the-counter drugs don’t seem to have this connection to tuberculosis, at least from the labels. Why is it true for prescription drugs? — C.W.


Answer: Despite the feeling you are getting from television ads, only a handful of prescription drugs increase risk for tuberculosis, but among those that do are some of the best-selling drugs (by total amount of money, not by number of prescriptions) and thus they are advertised heavily. These include adalimumab (Humira) and other tumor necrosis factor inhibitors (Remicade, Cimzia, Simponi and Enbrel). These drugs increase risk of developing tuberculosis by between 50 and 100 percent, but that is still only about 1 person in 200 who takes these medications. Steroid medications like prednisone also increase risk for tuberculosis, but you won’t see those advertised on television.

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