Does medical/dental/pharmaceutical company advertising benefit the public?

In 1977, the Supreme Court Court ruled that professional organizations could not restrict advertising by its members because "to do so constituted an illegal restraint of trade, inhibiting competition, driving prices up or fixing them, and depriving the public of information (including the cost of services) needed to select a physician.*"

Since that time physicians and dentists, as well as hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, have launched incessant ads on television, radio and in the print media. Whiter, straighter teeth, longer lasting erections, successful cancer surgery and a more youthful appearance have all been promised through a plethora of ads.

But what have we really learned about the qualifications of physicians and dentists? Has medical care improved or have doctors merely become providers? Does the public really know which is the best hospital to treat a specific condition or which pharmaceutical is appropriate for them?

* Mark G. Field, Turf Battles on Medicine Av

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