Edward Udel: Drugs R Us in pill-happy nation
DALTON -- Don't get me wrong. I use medicine to lower my cholesterol, fight off an occasional infection and mitigate my arthritic discomfort. My medications were prescribed by physicians and I deeply appreciate their expertise. But not one of my pills was selected by viewing the dozens of pharmaceutical commercials that sponsor America's television shows. In that respect, I'm probably out of the mainstream.
At some point, the pharmaceutical industry decided that the best way to sell its new products would be a direct advertising link to consumers, and it must be working because the practice has increased exponentially over the past few years. Apparently, the industry has abandoned the idea that doctors should prescribe medications. It prefers that consumers choose their medications and then badger their doctors until they get their preferred prescriptions.
Ads that tout the benefits of new drugs and the long list of side effects that they may cause can't be avoided on commercial television. The warnings are often dire. "This drug may cause diarrhea, constipation, diarrapation (combination), temporary shortness of breath, permanent shortness of life, diminished memory, repeated nightmares, bad marriages, and ‘a likeness of death' (known in Shakespearian circles as the Friar Lawrence effect), temporary or permanent insanity and mind-altering self-perpetuated delusions of grandeur." Some ads have political overtones featuring quiet, docile elephants. You can tell that the drug industry is closely aligned with the Republican Party because donkeys are nowhere to be found.
Juxtaposed to these commercials are ads representing the law firms that specialize in suing pharmaceutical companies. You know the ads. "If you or your loved ones have taken Troublemicin or Deathatoxin and suffered from arrested intellectual development, death, or both, contact the law firm of Doowee, Beatum, Ubetcha.
Ironically, legally mandated lists of advertised side effects may actually guide observant attorneys to the soft underbelly of pharmaceutical vulnerability. In a perfect consumer world, each drug ad would be followed immediately by each corresponding legal ad and that instantaneous linkage would make it much easier for consumers to both select a medication and arrange for a lawsuit. Have you noticed the catchy names of some of these new drugs? One-size-cures-allitron or Once-a-daymicin. Frequently the names are a combination of sounds that suggest the drug's purpose and scientific sounding suffixes like tone, micin and tron. They provide the sound of scientific authenticity that most of us crave except for those who deny global warming and Darwinism. Those folks may prefer faith-based prescriptions such as Lovethon or ForgiveveryonexceptObamacycline.
The names of medicines are often field tested to determine whether or not they promote confidence among potential users. Had the Republican national political juggernaut consulted with the powerful drug companies they protect and portrayed Mitt Romney as a much needed drug to cure our nation, Americans might have given him a chance. Imagine if Romney had been touted as a surefire cure for 53 percent of our population and he had a compliant, friendly elephant trailing behind him in each of his political ads. That warm, fuzzy approach would have been tough to reject. Some of the remaining 47 percent might have been willing to risk the side effects.
We consume drugs for all kinds of reasons, some of them legal, and we have come to depend upon them to cope with all kinds of challenges, physical, psychological, and neuro-analytical. Our reliance upon them is a statement of trust, an expectation that their consumption will benefit us.
With the pharmaceutical industry making more and more use of television advertising to strengthen our dependence upon these products, and specialty law firms catering to and profiting from those who have suffered from their use, all kinds of career opportunities have been launched. A law degree coupled with a Ph.D in chemistry might yield the best of both worlds. People might even become capable of suing themselves, a phenomenon with infinite and unexplored financial advantages. After all, if corporations can become people (Supreme Court decision), why can't people become corporations?
With the current movement to legalize once forbidden drugs, we should soon expect a new wave of advertising and those collecting the substantial revenue will definitely be on a Rocky Mountain high. In states where such drugs are still illegal, it will be interesting to see if those television ads can be geographically contained or will there be a First Amendment challenge?
I need to end this now as it is time for one of my meds although I can't remember which one. Oh yes, my Rememberall! Bottoms up!
Edward Udel is a regular Eagle
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