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I'm not a fan of drug advertising (I want it regulated, not banned) but I don't see how it's categorically different than other advertising.

Chronic pain (and a whole host of other issues) aren't life threatening. Until the mid 20th century people just lived with chronic pain and tons of other things. Look at the kinds of TV ads you see, they're for drugs that minimize the symptoms of some some negative, but not life threatening thing. These are not essential products. They're luxuries of modern life that we consider to be nearly essential. Depending on one's specific situation having a smartphone or car may actually be more "essential" to daily life than having one's condition treated.

As an aside, drugs that actually save lives don't seem to get marketed much.

On the other hand heroin and other drugs were available.

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