Companies spent nearly $10 billion to market prescription drugs and medical services in 2016 — five times more than they spent 20 years ago, according to a new study.

The large increase in “medical marketing” includes ads directed at consumers for prescription drugs, treatments, tests, or hospital services, as well as pitches to doctors by drug companies and lab test manufacturers, according to a Jan. 8, 2019 HealthDay article.

While some of the marketing may help people get appropriate tests or treatments, experts say it could also lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

In addition, there is little regulatory oversight of medical marketing, according to Meredith Rosenthal, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics and Policy at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who co-authored an editorial published with the study. She told HealthDay that although the FDA can act when an ad’s content violates the law, it does not approve every ad ahead of time.

“Don’t assume an ad has been reviewed and blessed by the FDA,” she said.

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