Rx Savy

More than ever before, pharmaceutical companies are fighting for your business with ads on television and in magazines. If you're not a savvy consumer, those ads could be doing more harm than good. Knowing what to look for can help you.

From allergies to ADHD, acid reflux and Alzheimer's -- ad after ad claims we need a new pill to make us better.

Pharmacist Art Poremba, says, "Some of these heavily advertised drugs like Prilosec, Vioxx, are drugs that aren't indicated for as many people as are probably on them."

Pharmacists say this flood of information can be confusing. Just because pills have different names, they may not be as different as you think.

"Let's say Tylenol is acetaminophen. Well, acetaminophen is in many types of products and although it's a very safe drug, it you take too much of it, it can do harm," says Poremba, of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.

The increase in marketing has its benefits for patients. Eighty-one percent of Americans say ads educate them about their condition and 64 percent say ads get them involved in their treatment decisions. Fifty percent of people who ask their doctor about a drug they saw advertised, got it.

RX SavvyPoremba says, "It can't help but raise people's awareness."

Then there are generics, which can be up to 80-percent less expensive.

"When it comes to the active drug ingredient, the dosage formulation, it's exactly the same," says Poremba.

Remember just as with other ads, there may be more to the product's benefits than you see in the ad.

Generic drugs can become available as soon as the patent on the name brand expires and another company uses the same drug formulation to get FDA approval. Poremba says around 44 percent of all drugs used today are generic.