Thursday, February 03, 2005

How do I know I'm sick? My TV told me!

Okay, so Jill (my darling wife) and I are doing dishes this evening and we have "King of the Hill" on in the background. Toward the end of the show, a commercial comes on for a prescription drug that people can take for their asthma.

Toward the end of the commercial, the voice-over guy starts listing off the reasons why you wouldn't want to take this drug, the possible side-effects, and something about not taking it if you're going in for surgery anytime soon.

And I thought, Oh, for crying out loud! When will it end?

I don't know about you, but I am sick and tired of all these prescription drug commercials on TV and in the magazine. I think these drug commercials are bad news, and here's the reason why:

1) It encourages people to self-diagnose. These commercials describe conditions that you might or might not have, describing the symptoms, and then suggesting a treatment plan (which always involves their product, naturally). If I were a doctor, I would be sick of conversations that involve my patient diagnosing him- or herself based on commercials.

PATIENT: Doctor, I believe I have Sorvidalertan Syndrome, and I believe the proper course of treatment is a healthy dose of chlormydioxyhydrate-D, or "Chlori-O," as it's also called. I understand that the possible side effects include dizziness, constipation, and bleeding from the armpits, but I'm just so worried about the SS, I have to take it now!

DOCTOR: Really? You think you have SS? What makes you think that?

PATIENT: Well, my TV told me that's what it means when I can't breathe and my face turns purple.

DOCTOR: No, that means that your collar is two sizes too small. Next patient!

Now, I ask you, who should be deciding a patient's treatment regimen? A doctor, who has spent years training to make such decisions, diagnoses, and prescriptions? Or an untrained layman whose only source of info is a commercial featuring cartoon characters watching badly drawn neurons misfiring?

2) It drives up the drug prices. Why do you think our drug prices are so high? It's not for the orange, semi-transparent bottles, I'll tell you that much. I mean, this is basic, common sense.

Let's say that it costs $2.5 million to produce a given drug for a year. Then let's say that you spend $2.5 million on an ad campaign that includes a spot on the Superbowl. Suddenly, it's going to take twice as much money to turn a profit. And how are you going to make the extra money? Hmmmmm .... let me think about it!

So what's the solution? I think I have an idea. For the common good, to help rein in the rampant drug prices, let's ban prescription drug advertising from television, kind of like what we do with cigarettes. That way, the drug companies don't have to pump untold millions into ridiculous advertising, and they can pass the savings on to us.

Use the links below to find and write to your Representatives and Senators and urge them to ban drug advertising from TV. I already have:

Write your Representative

Write your Senators

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