How to Put Prescription Drug Ads on Your Syllabus

Teaching Philosophy 37 (3):295-319 (2014)
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Abstract
The purpose of this essay is to make the case that the ethical issues raised by the current U.S. practice of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising are worthy of study in philosophy courses, and to provide instructors with some ideas for how they might approach teaching the topic, despite the current relative scarcity of philosophical literature published on it. This topic presents a unique opportunity to cover ground in ethics, critical thinking, and scientific literacy simultaneously. As a case study, the practice of DTC advertising is both theoretically rich and universally relevant to students’ lives. The nature of these ads—numerous, diverse, visually and thematically entertaining—makes them delicious fodder for in-class activities, small group work, discussion-based learning, creative projects, and customizable essay topics. I offer a set of suggestions for approaching the study of DTC drug ads that is informed by my own experience doing so in bioethics courses. Ultimately, including this topic on your syllabus not only contributes to students’ philosophical skills and knowledge, but also helps them become better informed as citizens and potential “consumers” of health care
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