For quite some time now, the Dept. has been without cable television. Aside from the occasional jonesing for MSNBC or CNN every now and then, (and okay, maybe some Top Chef or Project Runway, but only if it's Old School), we honestly Do Not Miss It. We are very content Cord Cutters, the growing breed without cable and satellite television services who watch network TV, stream select shows from our computers using an HDMI hookup, and, in our case, have a Roku box and Jared's Netflix password.
One of the things I'm continually amused by is the carefully selected advertising on some of the over-the-air networks. It's clear that they have studied their audience demographics, and that they are targeting them like the bullseye on a dart board. My favourite example of this is a network called MeTV, one which shows reruns of old popular shows that were huge faves in their day. Here's a typical lineup of their primetime: MASH, The Andy Griffith Show, Hogan's Heroes, Gilligan's Island, Welcome Back Kotter, Perry Mason. (Rick and I watch MASH during dinner every night. It replaces Seinfeld, which was our choice during the Heydays Of Cable.)
During MASH Rick and I are offered a variety of medications, information on life insurance and reverse mortgages, and several medical devices including catheters, back braces, and of course the medical alert system for when we've fallen and can't get up. Oh, and the walk-in bathtub. But the amount of prescription medications we are urged to "talk to (y)our doctor about" is ridiculous. And lately, I've noticed that it's not just on The Old People's Network. It's all over the networks, and it's all over primetime.
Obviously, the pharmaceutical companies wouldn't advertise on television unless such advertising worked. It's like negative political campaign ads: people say they hate them, but their effectiveness is undeniable; they work. And so do prescription drug ads. That's why they are so ubiquitous. The US federal ban on direct to consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription medications was lifted in 1997. But do you remember there being so many ads on television in, say, 2005 as there are now for medicines?
And the names of these meds are fascinating. Januvia, Latuda--I think I may have had them in class. Eliquis--wasn't that the name of a car not too terribly long ago, maybe the Mercury Eliquis? And Linzess--sounds more like a chocolate or maybe a fabric, or even a feminine hygiene product. But I digress.
I'm irritated by so many facets of this: Advertising, in many ways, creates demand. One health writer noted in her article this February that "70 percent of adults and 25 percent of children are on at least one prescription drug" in this country. For adults the most-prescribed medication is an antidepressant. For children, an ADHD med. (It's noteworthy--and a relief--that I've yet to see any adverts for ADHD meds on TV, at least in my area; the vast majority of commercials seem to be for male sexual performance drugs. I'm struggling to think of any ads for children's prescription medications at all.)
A second feature that irritates me is that we, the health consumers, end up paying in time and money for these slick little commercials in which men sidle up to their wives and get feely, or the grey-faced woman looks disinterested and hopeless. It drives up the cost of a pill which the drug companies are already providing samples of--along with free lunches, doodads, and other perks--to our doctors while we sit idly out in the waiting rooms as the reps take up a patient time slot. And I'm sure I'm not alone in having had to wait as long as an hour to see one of my doctors. (Back when I used to go and see them. Don't start.)
Oh, and one more: stop telling me to "ask my doctor about" this pill when I don't have Erectile Dysfunction, Low Testosterone, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Clinical Depression, or Overactive Bladder, or really, any of the conditions treated by the medicines being hawked at me. So much of this advertising has absolutely nothing to do with me, period. It's interesting that there are few to no commercials for drugs that battle hypertension, diabetes, or heart-related conditions. (I don't have those, either, but I'm willing to bet that more people do.) Probably the majority of those drugs are now available in generic form, and don't generate much profit for drug companies anymore.
Pharmaceutical companies spend good money in Research and Development, and I've benefited immensely in the area of migraine therapies. I don't expect any business to do business for free. I know it costs a staggering amount to get a new drug to market: according to Forbes, it's 5 billion dollars. It's hardly a dilemma--cut the advertising budget and save a bit by not putting the commercials on television, but sacrifice that revenue stream (Every $1.00 spent advertising prescription drugs is estimated to increase their retail sales by $4.20.). It is, however, quite telling that the US and only one other country--New Zealand--allow DTC pharmaceutical advertising. Are we getting it wrong?
Geeze. I sound old and curmudgeonly talking about this, don't I? Am I going to start bitching about Kids Today or That Rap Music or Being On A Fixed Income? Should I take back the cute new boots I just got?
(I don't think so either. There's a zipper. In the back.)
Do let's chat all this up in Comments. Am I just having an Old Lady Moment?
post header image