|A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory
By Darrel Crain, D.C.
"Doc, I'm pretty sure I need some of those big green pills, you know, like the ones on television."
"Really? What are your symptoms?"
"Well, I feel like I'm the guy in the TV commercial standing next to the telephone. I can't pick it up because I'm scared to death who might be calling me!"
"Ah, sounds to me like a classic case of Electronic Communication Initiation Rejection Disorder. I know just what you need -- the little yellow pill."
"Wait a minute, doc. I don't want to tell you your job or anything, but I think the little yellow pill is for chicks. I saw that commercial the other day. This girl is standing outside the big picture window and she's afraid to go in and join the party. I don't need the little yellow pill, I need the big green pill!"
"No Jimmy, I'm afraid you're wrong. The woman in that commercial suffers from Social Avoidance Dysfunctional Anxiety Disorder. She needs the orange pill with black polka dots, remember?"
"Oh yeah, I..."
"Don't worry, Jimmy. It's a common mistake. All these 30-second pharmaceutical drug education service announcements can be confusing. I'm sure you've seen the ad with the mother standing outside the kindergarten classroom looking all panicky and her daughter says, "What's wrong Mommy?" She obviously has a bad case of Primary Retrograde Personality Deficit Complex. She needs that little yellow pill, and so do you!"
"But I don't have that personality deficit thing like she's got, do I? Or does it include a fear of telephones too? Anyway, Doc, what would the guys think if they knew I was taking a chick pill?"
"Jimmy, Jimmy, trust me, I'm the doctor here! That pill isn't just for women. Look, the trouble is, a 30-second drug commercial is not long enough for the drug experts to explain all the facts about the drug."
"You mean, at the end when the voice talks really fast about all the side effects?"
"No, I mean this drug was approved as a gender neutral drug!"
"Listen Jimmy," said the doctor, lowering his voice, "If you were any other patient I probably wouldn't tell you this, but the little yellow pill and the big green pill are really the same drug, just packaged and marketed differently!"
"No, that's the honest truth. The drug salesman was here just yesterday and told me the secret. It's all good though. I get the same perks no matter which drug I prescribe."
"Well then, Doc, if it's all the same to you, I'd just as soon you prescribe me the big green pills, in case my friends see me taking them."
The story you have just read could actually have happened, even though I made it up. The names have been changed to protect... uh, well, actually I changed the names to protect myself from lawsuits brought by Big Pharma for making fun of how the really big drug lords push drugs: on television and radio, in addition to magazines and newspapers.
Ever since 1997, when it became legal to advertise on radio and TV, the public airwaves have become more and more saturated with direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising. This has literally changed the way people go about getting their prescription drugs. We now self-medicate with the latest, least-tested, most expensive, most-heavily advertised prescription drugs out there. No longer do we need to limit our self-medicating habits to a six-pack of beer, a few shots of scotch or some other recreational drug.
As the old saying goes, "A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory." Tell the doctor which pill you want, based on which advertisement you like best, and bingo! Four minutes later you walk out of the doctor's office and head to the pharmacy clutching the prescription you asked for.
Doctors really do write the exact prescription people request about 70 percent of the time, according to Ray Strand in his book, Death by Prescription. Drug companies are well aware of this fact. That is why they don't even blink about spending $4 billion every year on DTC marketing.
The United States and New Zealand, alone in the world, allow DTC drug advertising. The absurd claim that these ads are somehow educational or provide important patient information would be laughable if the consequences weren't so tragic.
"Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it," wrote Stephen Leacock.
The normal ups and downs of daily life are steadily being transformed by advertising into made-up diseases. We learn that these new, invented diseases must be treated with powerful, dangerous and expensive drugs. In the process, we are diverted from our traditional wisdom and robbed of natural solutions for creating health, navigating the challenges of life, and dying peacefully with dignity.
A hail and hearty group of medical educators and health groups have now banded together to put an end to this process, and they deserve our support.
These people are sickened by the deliberate and systematic destruction of common sense in primary health care that is promoted by DTC drug advertising. A bill shall soon be brought before Congress, called the Public Health Protection Act. The goal is an outright ban on prescription advertising over the public airwaves.
What about regulation instead of a ban? Any attempt at regulating the DTC beast, other than a total ban, must fail. This following important warning comes from Solon, one of the seven wise men of ancient Greece: "Laws are like spider's webs which, if anything small falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape."
We know regulation would fail because the FDA already fails miserably to regulate the content of advertising that goes out to doctors. Unfortunately, doctors routinely decide which drugs to prescribe based on these marketing materials. Of course this, in itself, wouldn't be so bad if only the claims in these brochures came from verifiable scientific evidence and data!
Alas, the brochures are full of ad copy written by professional marketers. Researchers have noted that only six percent of the promotional materials they studied contain statements that were scientifically supported by identifiable medical literature.
"We chat together; he gives me prescriptions; I never follow them so I get well," wrote the great French playwright, Molière. Perhaps we should all follow his example. Just say no! to the man on TV, when he says, "Ask your doctor if XYZ drug is right for you!"
I say it is time to take away Big Pharma's authority to come into the living rooms of America and hawk their dangerous wares. "Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority," Thomas Huxley sagely noted.
"Doc, I just changed my mind," Jimmy said suddenly. "I just figured out you are suffering from Chronic Pharmacy Psychobabble Hyperdementia Disorder! Hold onto your big green pills. You can keep the little yellow pills too, as well as the orange ones with black polka dots. But please don't flush any of that hazardous stuff down the toilet, you may poison someone downstream!"
© Darrel Crain, 2006 All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Opinions? Rants? Call Darrel Crain at 619-445-0100