Mark Dolliver: Safety, Over the Counter

More evils of big pharma

As if consumers needed fresh impetus to think ill of drug companies, they’ve got one in the recent controversy over whether very young kids should take over-the-counter cold and cough medicines. Polling for NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health asked parents how they feel about these remedies and the industry that makes them. Among those with kids 6 or younger, 53 percent said they “did not think pharmaceutical companies did enough testing to ensure that these drugs were safe and effective.” As the chart shows, fewer than one in four are very confident about the overall safety of OTC drugs for kids.

That would seem to call for a robust round of ads to assuage parental fears. In this context, though, people are even more distrusting of ads than usual. When the poll also asked parents how much they trust various sources “to provide accurate information about the safety and effectiveness of over-the-counter medicines for children,” 71 percent said they trust their child’s doctor “a lot” and 50 percent said the same about their pharmacist. Just 3 percent said they have a lot of trust in ads for such products.