Thursday, November 11, 2010

Prescription for Irritation

OK, is it just me, or are the drug ads getting even more weird than before?
Print ads are bad enough -- one glossy page of promises, followed by two pages of small print detailing the disclaimers and warnings of dire things that might happen if you use that particular drug.
It's the television/radio ads that are a little freaky, though.
Drug ads always show attractive people with some kind of difficulty that the advertised drug will help them with. We follow the mini-drama as the patient moves from problem to solution -- but then comes the rapid, robotic list of “do not use” and “this may cause” warnings. By the end of the warnings, I'm shocked that the patient hasn't dropped dead, at least from fright if not from the side effects of the advertised drug.
The thing I find particularly irksome is that these ads add to the cost of the drugs. How much of the cost of a prescription can be attributed to prime-time placement of an advertisement, or to running an ad over and over and over again until little children can sing the jingle or ask “Mommy, what does erectile dysfunction mean?”
The ads are meant to make patients ask their doctors if they need a particular drug -- a form of self-diagnosis. The demand by patients for a specific drug is meant to make doctors more willing to prescribe that particular drug. And everyone is happy.
Except for patients who can't afford prescriptions whose cost is inflated by incessant advertising, and of course, those patients who suffer or succumb to the side effects of a particular drug they didn't need but took because an advertisement convinced them they might need it.
Some things should be strictly between a patient and her doctor. Which prescription drugs a patient should use might be one of those things.

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