Pharmaceutical Advertising: It’s Not Just for Sick People Anymore

Remember the “good ol’ days” when the only time you saw an advertisement banner for a prescription drug was when you made that dreaded annual visit to your family doctor? Now they’re in newspapers, magazines, popping up everywhere on the web, and much to my dislike, on TV commercials during every commercial break.

Ever since the FDA gave the nod to allow direct-to-consumer advertising in 1998, the public has been absolutely inundated with these ubiquitous, annoying ads. However, I must admit I never gave it much thought, except that I got sick of seeing the stupid, melodramatic commercials every time I turned on my television. Then I began to notice how many people these ads influenced-how many of my friends and co-workers were running to their doctors, demanding the latest, flavor-of-the-month drug that you would see all the time on TV, convinced they needed it. I can also say I have seen many of these people not only become dependent on certain drugs, like anti-depressants, but suffer when they tried to stop taking them.

I can recall most clearly an ad just a few years back-Vioxx, which showed a beautiful Winter scene, complete with remote frozen pond where Gold-medalist ice skater, Dorothy Hamil was lacing up her skates, smiling, and singing the praises of how this wonder drug helped her overcome the obstacles of arthritis. Seeing her in the commercial, a respectable American, made the whole ad seem credible enough, until recently when it was banned because it was causing heart attacks and strokes in many of the patients who used it. Oh, you still see ads about Vioxx, only now you see them in commercials for drug-injury lawyers.

The problem has escalated way beyond annoyance, because many of these drugs are harming and killing Americans, and we’re being lied to about it, which is certainly no big surprise to me, and probably not to you either. Health crusaders like Byron Richards are exposing incidents every day about how the FDA are pushing many drugs, merely for profit, yet hiding the truth about the plethora of adverse reactions, and even deaths these drugs have caused. The truth is the FDA is working on the drug companies behalf, attempting to destroy our health privileges, and trying their damn best to eliminate any natural health solutions. They simply want us to think they have the only panacea for any of our ills.

I have a close friend, who thinks she must always take something to sleep, or a pain-killer for any little pain, and that the only way to lower her cholesterol is by taking statin drugs like Crestor. Her lifestyle is totally sedentary, and her diet is rich in fatty sweets and rich foods. I worry and fear for her health, because she thinks taking a pill fixes everything. I’m not saying that drugs aren’t necessary at times, but I feel they should only be used as a last resort, if nothing else has worked. For instance, if you have changed your diet, began a safe exercise regimen, and you still have high cholesterol after a certain period of time, than it would only be in your best interest to seek the advice of a trusted doctor, who might prescribe something.

It’s incredibly upsetting how many of the newspaper ads for these statin drugs like Crestor almost totally leave out any information about the necessary changes of diet, nutrition, and physical exercise as a part of the solution. These ads give the impression the only solution to reducing cholesterol is to take Crestor. Then they’ll direct you to “see your doctor right away.” It’s just a vicious cycle – the pharmaceutical companies are able to buy media influence with all their big dollars, and it’s sad because they don’t care that it is hurting and killing Americans.

I hate to see so many hypochondriacs,( a vulgar term, but a reality nevertheless), and people who might fall desperately ill being taken advantage of, and blindly trusting the information from television commercials, or magazine/newspaper ads, and failing to do some simple research. I’m sure we all know someone like this, and we feel sorry for them. I must say whenever I, or anyone has attempted to discuss the issue with them, they either don’t want to believe it, or they feel they must have whatever it is they are taking. Again, let me stress, if someone truly does need to be on a medication to help them, or to maintain proper health, that is all well and good, the way it should be. Prescription drugs do have their place, but all too often these days, you do see those people who don’t need them, who become addicted to them; They’ve merely been brainwashed by the “media-whoring”(a term used by leading health journalist Mike Adams, of, where drugs have been hyped up, and proper education or truth is missing from their ads. Mr. Adams also reported that many people,after viewing Claritin ads on television were influenced to request the drug from their doctor, despite the fact that many of these people had no idea what the drug was used for, which left many doctors shaking their heads.

Another sad fact is how so many newspapers have been involved in ethics scandals for trying to bring the truth to the public, and that is wrong as hell. It isn’t right for the media to manipulate the facts and abandon journalistic duty by punishing a reporter for the truth. But, it’s happening every day, and it only takes one phone call to get an anti-drug ad pulled, and dismiss the journalist who was decent enough and daring enough to write it.

The bottom line is – pharmaceutical companies would not spend the kind of money they spend on advertising if it didn’t work to their greedy and avaricious advantage. In 2000, alone, $2.5 billion was spent on mass media advertising for drugs, according to Mike Fillon in Ephedra: Fact or Fiction. According to a report prepared by the National Institute for Health Care Management, a nonprofit research foundation created by the Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plans, the fifty most-advertised prescription medicines contributed significantly last year to the increase in the nation’s spending on drugs, and this is just staggering.

Perhaps the most terrifying fact of all is that the prescription drugs have killed thousands more Americans than terrorists combined. The American Medical Association Journal stated that the pharmaceutical industry kills as many as 100,000 people annually. And they say that there are as many as 750,000 deaths a year due to medical mistakes, and there is evidence to back up the horrible reality that many of these deaths could have been prevented if the folks at the FDA had been doing their jobs, or if the folks at the drug companies would have been trying to provide the necessary information to consumers, or practicing basic, decent human ethics.

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