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the other drug war



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Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan
  • Media Messages
  • Student Handout: Key Concepts in Media Literacy
  • Student Handout: Prescription Drug Advertising

  • Viewing Lesson Plan
  • Student Viewing Guide
  • Student Handout: Questions for Viewing
  • Student Handout: Key Terms and Definitions

  • Post-Viewing Lesson Plans
  • The Rest of the Story
  • Great Debates

  • Supplementary Activities

    Internet Resources

    Printable .pdf of Entire Guide
    (Adobe Acrobat required)

    » About the film:

    In this film, FRONTLINE investigates the battle being waged between major pharmaceutical companies and American consumers fed up with paying the highest drug prices in the world. Through interviews with legislators, scientists, consumers, and industry leaders, FRONTLINE examines how states like Maine and Oregon are attempting to control escalating prescription drug costs in the face of strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. The program also examines the growing conflict between Americans' appetite for life-saving medical innovation and society's need to provide affordable drugs for all.

    » A Note to Teachers:

    • For classes in Civics, Economics, Health and Media Literacy; Grade level 912
    • Topics: Affordable prescription drugs, government-mandated price controls, pharmaceutical research and development, advertising, media literacy

    "The Other Drug War" documents the ongoing battle between large drug companies and U.S. citizens who are demanding lower prices. The purpose of this guide is to help teachers use the film with their students to consider the debate over prescription drug pricing; the role of government in regulating drug prices; concepts of media literacy; and the role of these concepts as they relate to prescription drug advertising.

    Though this FRONTLINE program, which first aired on June 19, 2003, concentrates on senior citizens, it is easy to make connections of relevance to high school students. Many will have aging relatives dealing with problems similar to those expressed in this program, and many will themselves take prescription drugs. Most will be familiar with vague television advertisements for prescription drugs that leave them wondering, "But what is the drug's purpose? Who should take it? Why should I ask my doctor about it?"

    CAUTION: Drug use, both legal and illegal, can be a sensitive topic in the lives of your students. To minimize discomfort and strong emotions, we suggest that teachers carefully consider which examples of illnesses and drugs will be used in class discussions. Drugs used to treat arthritis, cholesterol, or allergies may be a potential focus.

    » Lesson Plans

    Pre-Viewing Lesson Plan:
    Media Messages
    Students will learn key concepts of media literacy and consider how these concepts apply to prescription drug advertising.


    Viewing Lesson Plan:
    Student Viewing Guide
    Students will complete a worksheet while viewing the film.


    Post-Viewing Lesson Plans:
    The Rest of the Story
    Students will look at drug advertisements and construct their own ads for fictitious prescription drugs.

    Great Debates
    Students will develop critical thinking skills as they construct arguments for one of the three debates described in this lesson.


    Supplementary Activities:

    • In a writing assignment, students will explore the high cost of prescription drugs.
    • Students will research a medical condition for which prescription drugs are used.
    • Students will consider the meaning of the title, "The Other Drug War."

    » Purchasing the Video

    "The Other Drug War" can be purchased from ShopPBS for Teachers. Also please note: FRONTLINE is streaming the entire film online on the "The Other Drug War" Web site.

    » Credits

    This teacher guide was developed by Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants. It was written by Lynn McBrien, PhD candidate in Educational Studies at Emory University, Atlanta. Pat Grimmer, Chair of the Social Studies Department at Carbondale Community High School, Carbondale Ill. and Ellen Greenblatt of University High School, San Francisco, Calif. were advisers.

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