Friday, October 03, 2014

In Which I Am Tired Of Being Inundated By Pharmaceuticals Which Want Me To Ask My Doctor About Them

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?

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  1. I dislike those ads, too. I prefer to let my doctor surprise me with scripts for maladies that I have-- rather than learn about icky medical things that I don't need to know about… yet.

  2. Funny thing to is to watch the commercials with. The sound off and try to determine what malady the pill is trying to gelp


  3. I like when the announcer's dulcet tones inform me that this drug has certain side effects,one of which is loose, pungent, and watery stool and the inability to control it .

    I would like to shout "Yeah, Doc, that's the one I want!" If you say it will cure my crooked fingernail, write me up. I'll deal with the poop later."

  4. Mike & I have been laughing about an erectile dysfunction one that has some sexy Australian (we think) lady slinking around (it's nice though that she seems to be a "certain age" & not some twenty-something).

    I am heading to DSW at the FIRST OPPORTUNITY to get those boots! I love them!

  5. The side effect disclaimers and the ads for lawyers seeking class action litigants for the same drugs amuse me. (I'm easy)

  6. The ads are very annoying. If I were a man with ED, I would have to ask my doctor about anti-depression medicine after being constantly bombarded with the, many, reminders that I have ED. By-the-way, I love those boots...

  7. The boots are awesome! I can imagine just how great they look on you, Nance.

    I think the ads are awful for many reasons, including the fact that I feel like they make people think that being ill is "normal" now, like everybody should have at least one disease or condition that requires drugs. But one day when they develop a drug for celiac disease, the ads and the pharmaceutical companies behind them will ironically and finally get more people diagnosed. The companies will want more customers so they will invest money in better testing, expand the scope of serious gluten issues, educate doctors on a weekly basis (doctors get almost no training on celiac, food intolerances/allergies, conditions--other than diabetes and heart disease, and that info is often outdated/wrong--that can benefit from dietary changes, etc. now), etc. While I'm not interested in a drug, I'll stick with just diet myself, many will be because that's the way of thinking that's promoted ("just take this drug"). I can only hope that some will say, "Wait, you mean I can just simply change my diet instead of take a drug?"


  8. Shirley--Hi! So nice to see you. Thanks for the compliment re: the boots.

    And thanks for introducing a new thought into the discussion, that being the idea of pharmaceutical advertising bringing awareness into the general public. I'm sure there are some individuals that, upon seeing that there are medicines available for their condition(s), might be more inclined to speak to their doctors or even seek treatment, period. That's true.

    I do think you're right on when you imply that we're an overmedicated society; that we seek drugs to make us stop feeling anything, really. I think many people are under the impression that we're all supposed to be cheery, energetic, and perfectly wonderful all the time, no matter what. That if we're not, we should immediately seek treatment for that sadness, that pain in the side, that dry throat.

    Everyone is different, of course, but I'm so happy that, after one year of careful attention and being very proactive, we've been able to get my mom off of several medications and have others greatly reduced. Diet, moderate exercise (she's 84 and overweight with two replaced hips), and changing to a thoughtful gerontologist made a huge difference.
    So, I'm with you--look at non-pharmaceutical options first!

    Denise F--Thanks for stopping by and joining in here at the Dept. Aren't those boots great? Such a deal, too.

    I'm sure the ED commercials are a relief to some men with that Concern, but honestly--can there be a new, less smarmy campaign? Ugh.

    Sillyak--Oh, I hear you. How about the one that repeats "transvaginal mesh" about 20 times in 30 seconds? At least, it seems to me like it does. And in that dreadful, death knell voice, too.

    Bug--I miss the ED ads that used to feature fmr. Sen. Bob Dole.

    My boots were actually on the clearance rack because they are in a sort of taupey tan that has been discontinued. So I got them for only $35. But they're still a steal at the regular price, I think.

  9. Nancy--That means they can also write off-label scrips for weight loss, then! Ha! Nice to see you back here in Comments.

    phoebes in sf--I have to admit that I used to like the animated ones that had the little sad cloud and the cartoon bladder that held the woman's hand everywhere she went. Those were at least creative.

    Ally Bean--I don't ever remember asking my doctor about a specific drug by name or by an advert. I think the only thing I ever asked was to my neurologist, and I asked whether or not botox injections would help my migraines and if that would be a next step or not. I knew acupuncture was not covered by my insurance, but was fairly certain the botox was, at least partially. And that was not due to TV ads; it was due to extensive research on my part.

    Like you, I prefer to think (and maybe that's a mistake) that my doctor is aware of the best therapies out there for me. And again, I often do my own research ahead of time if I have a concern and a treatment isn't working for me.

  10. Those *are* cute boots. I have given up buying shoes in Korea, though. Even if they do carry "lah-juh sizee" ( I wear a 7) they all run so nattow it's impossible to fit into anything anyway. Mi don't begrudge all my lovely, slender Korean sisters their dainty, narrow feet, but I do miss being able to buy shoes. As far as drugs go- we haven't had US cable since we left the US in 2011, but Hulu does occasionally sneak a drug ad in. I'm torn between realizing that the adverts provide a certain level of public informatio- which is good in some ways- and loathing the attitude that drugs are the way to handle every problem. None of my German co-workers take anything, unless they're horribly sick- if you ask in the staff room for a paracetamol, no one can help you. In the US, every person in the room has their own stash of Tylenol/Advil/ibuprofen, ready and waiting.

  11. MsCaroline--Holy crap. If 7 is a larger size, my 8 1/2 would offend them.

    And sometimes, I wear a...*9*!!

    Your German colleagues are reinforcing the stereotypes of the stoic, hardy Teutons. Likewise, I was the person at work who had the enormous bottle of ibuprofen, and everyone in the English department came running to my room for their fix. Sigh. Isn't it sad?

    Lovely to see you back here in Comments, btw. And I thoroughly enjoyed your post over at AsiaVu. So entertaining and fascinating!

  12. We had cable many years ago. But despite the 40 or so channels, there were many times when there was nothing running that we wanted to watch. However, there was almost something we didn't mind watching. So we were watching TV all the time and not enjoying it much ---and accomplishing little else. So we cut the corabout 25 years ago.

    We sometimes watch Get TV which runs old movies ---and it seems to run the same ads as ME TV. I told my husband that if we purchased every item advertised, we'd be cured of every possible ailment and never have another worry in the world.

    When the medication ads come on, my husband notes how many X's, V's, Z's or Q's are in the product names ---in the manufacturer's attempt to make them sound "powerful"---as if all those consonants will wipe out diseases all by themselves.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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