Health & Medical

Drug Commercials Dangerous to your Senior Health

Remember “Halitosis?”

1921 Listerine AdvertisementThat dire affliction, invented by Listerine in 1921, is one of the hundreds concocted by admen through the years to cast grave doubt on our personal lives – Often a bridesmaid but never a bride – always paired with a solution assuring happiness for us and profits for the sponsoring company.

From Odo-Ro-No, which in 1919 cautioned women that “B.O.” stripped them of any hope of social success to today’s medicines for everything from headaches to toenail fungus, ads “seldom educate, provide limited information about the causes of a disease or who may be at risk.”

So says a study published Monday in the Annals of Family Practice.

UCLA researcher Dominick Frosch analyzed prescription drug commercials aired in 2004 and found -Surprise! – Madison Avenue baloney, not facts, dominated.

Ninety percent of the ads studied portrayed actors far happier after they took the advertised drug, most with no mention of causes, risk factors, the prevalence of the disease, alternatives like exercise, diet, or cheaper over-the-counter medications of equal effect.

Typical is the 30-second spot in which a desolate urban-dweller enters a doctor’s office, is prescribed a cholesterol-lowering drug, then exits into sunny suburbia to the delight of his loved ones and neighbors. Hallelujah!

In other words, most consumer drug advertising is hogwash.

Little wonder all the advanced countries on earth ban such bull, except New Zealand and the US. And while New Zealand considers a prohibition, here, like everything else, it’s a matter of money.

Although Pharma claims that such lies are commercial speech, protected by the First Amendment, remember: We got rid of cigarette commercials, didn’t we?

Thing is, we believe all their crap.

Seniors, especially, are seduced by our faith in the power and magic of a pill. “Wonder drugs” like penicillin are part of our heritage.

Mucinex Drug AdvertisementSo, when we watch a miserable “patient” on TV find happiness, true love, social acceptance, even spousal adulation, not to mention terrific sex after just one hour on a new medication (paid for in good part by Uncle Sam), we say, “Hey, I want some of that.”

And we get it. Overworked physicians frequently capitulate when a patient requests a name-brand drug. Little wonder drug companies spent $4.5 billion in 2006 on advertising, up from $1.1 billion in 1997, outpacing research and development budgets two to one.

We’re dangerously overmedicated, taking far more drugs per person than any other country. Result? Listen to pharmacist Tom Braun, author of the Suddenly Senior column “Confessions of a Drug Pusher”:

Often drugs are prescribed for symptoms that turn out to be side effects of existing drug regimens, creating an upward spiral of drug consumption in the attempt to correct the situation. The resulting polypharmacy, or pill burden, increases adverse drug reactions. This constant selling of brand drugs directly or indirectly through consumer ads without full side-effect disclosure multiplies the potential for harm. Good drug marketing trumps good medicine.

The number of US prescriptions filled annually has bloated to 3.5 billion, up from 1.5 billion in 1989. An acclaimed 2003 study called “Death by Medicine” found that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.

Big Pharma CartoonScary, huh? The FDA won’t do anything about Pharma’s lies and omissions. Congress won’t either. In this era when greed rules, both are so deep in the rich pockets of Big Pharma that God Himself can’t entice them out.

So, it all comes down to you.

First, know that all drugs are potentially dangerous, especially in combination with other pharmaceuticals. If you’re on a number of pills every day, there’s a good chance that you are not functioning as well as you should. A decline can be gradual, so often you won’t recognize your diminished state.

Instead of relying on drugs as your first option, consider them your last.

Finally, stop believing in the magic of pills. Talk to your doctor about alternatives for each and every pill you take: diet, exercise, less powerful medications.

Consider, too, that today drug makers, doctors, and patients all are quick to medicate conditions once accepted simply as part of the human condition. Remember Halitosis. And Restless Legs Syndrome, whatever that is.

Fight back. It’s your life!

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