The decline is in sharp contrast to the decade-long drug-industry advertising spree that began in 1997, when the Food and Drug Administration loosened its regulations and allowed direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs on TV.
Some industry analysts attribute part of the decline to controversy over such ads. Employers and health insurance companies have long complained that TV ads drive consumers to the latest, often most expensive, pills. And doctors complain that their patients often pressure them into prescribing these heavily advertised drugs.
Perhaps the most well-known criticism of TV advertising of pharmaceuticals arose in 2004 when Merck withdrew the once heavily advertised painkiller Vioxx after studies showed it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes.