We have a useful, but possibly fatal, drug for that
It was either the Miracle Spring Water or Peyronie’s Disease that did me in. Neither sent me screaming into some padded room, but it was close. In the end, Peyronie’s Disease and the advertising for its “cure” left me gobsmacked. Who was Peyronie and why attach his name to a condition resulting in a crooked erect penis causing pain and discomfort during intercourse? (François Gigot de la Peyronie, who received his diploma as a French barber-surgeon in 1695.)Weighed in the balance, I suppose it was sort of tit for tat, given the never-ending ads for “women’s problems,” including Poise and Depends and all the other adult pads and diapers showing well-dressed, happy, laughing women wetting themselves or barely making it to the ladies in time. Then again, maybe it was time for men to be embarrassed on the public airwaves.In case anyone is interested in freedom from “the bondage of debt,” there’s always the Miracle Spring Water sent to you Absolutely Free. This is offered to the gullible public from the hands of some over-pomaded slick spokesman who refers to it as a “faith tool” designed to bring in scads of money. The ad is accompanied with Real Life testimonials from teary-eyed people who drank the water and received — almost immediately, Lord bless — cheques in the mail.No, it’s the pharmaceutical ads that spend the most and offer the most hope. Of course, no one ever looks really sick and dying, but the fear is still there.Spending any length of time in the United States watching network television should make any Canadian grateful for CBC, CTV, Global and the federal government. Why? Because the advertising of prescription drugs is mostly barred from Canadian airwaves.By the time one has watched a mind-boggling array of strangely named drugs and heard the sotto voce recitation of the possible side-effects, most of which are horrifying, including death and the equally nasty “anal leakage,” the need for some other form of entertainment became painfully obvious.This led to a marathon binging of Law and Order. It didn’t save me from the pharmaceutical ads, but it was a satisfying way to spend a rainy day in Hawaii, given the other choices. In a plethora of television channels, it is unbelievable that what is being delivered to the watching public is petty, jealous and drunken rage masquerading as “reality” (Bridezillas); self-aggrandizement (Keeping Up With The Kardashians) and just plain eye-rolling vulgar and pathetic (My 600-Pound Life).This is not to mention the news channels whose unending coverage of the American president fits all of the above categories and then some.But all of that inanity can’t hold a candle to medical marketing, worth $30 billion a year. In that year, the average television watcher is exposed to 30 hours of drug advertising.I counted more than 20 unique prescriptions before losing track and becoming discouraged. But even a short list is mind-blowing: Rexulti prescribed for depression. A side-effect? Risk of death in dementia patients. There’s Vraylar for bipolar disorder; side-effects can include weight gain and possible death. Breo for asthma; possible side-effects, death or hospitalization.But who pays attention to the quiet and quickly enunciated side-effects when the drugs are presented as the answer to any dread disease?Christopher Lane, in Psychology Today writes: “Ever since the FDA in 1997 relaxed its rules on pharmaceutical advertising ... the amount spent on TV advertising has risen incrementally by hundreds of millions of dollars each year, driving up media costs that are then passed on to those patients and consumers, creating a climate rife with over-diagnosis and over-medication. The United States and New Zealand are the only advanced economies to allow such advertising.”The drug lobby will argue it’s providing much-needed information about “miracle cures” and the free market should rule. That “free market” has resulted in such atrocities as a 200 per cent increase in the cost of insulin from 2002 to 2013, according to the American Medical Association.The maximization of profit at the expense of patients who have no choice but to use medication may be legal, but it certainly isn’t moral.But who in the American administration chooses morality over money?
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