Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Advertising to your affliction


Commercials annoy me.

"Yeah so what", you're likely saying to yourself right now...

If you have time on your hands like I do, you get to see a lot of ads pitching everything from luxury automobiles to breakfast cereal.  Of course the later the hour the more egregious the commercials become. 

Male enhancement and impotence cures show up the most frequently followed closely by well dressed lawyers pitching resolution via litigation.

All of those are the standard fare.  Even those products that promise to rectify men's...shortcomings. 

Most disgusting of all, however, are the ads from the pharmaceutical companies.  Regardless of how you feel about modern medicine, hawking prescription drugs like feminine hygiene products is something just short of criminal. 

"Ask your doctor" and "You don't have to suffer anymore" are common pitches.  Since when is it acceptable to create a demand for a controlled substance?  Is it wise to blithely wander into your doctor's office requesting medication without being sure of the affliction?  The commercials would make you think so.

How arrogant is that? The pharmaceuticals industry does the diagnosis making your doctor just another middleman.  I'd hope that rampant capitalism hasn't done the medical profession what it's done to our eating habits but I wouldn't hold your breath.  The practice of kickbacks and promotions given to physicians to favor one treatment option over another isn't as rare as we'd like it to be. 

With the advent of the Internet it seems self-diagnosis with a website as attending physician  has turned us all into hypochondriacs.  Every pain or discomfort is sure to have a miracle pill and all we have to do is make an appointment and ask for it.

Of course all the ads mention, "Ask your Doctor". 

Why?

If my doctor knows my physical condition and I don't have any medical training shouldn't he be the one prescribing treatments?  Who cares what a commercial says?  Why is it so important that I be aware of the names of prescription drugs and why do the drug companies feel the need to give them catchy names? 
So what's the point? 

Why does a company that makes drugs have a retail profit motive?  Need should dictate sales in medicine, not the other way around.  Commercials are explicitly designed to create a desire for a product.  In the case of prescription drugs that's a potentially unhealthy goal to say the least.

It's disgusting and highlights one of the primary flaws with the healthcare industry in the United States.  Personally, I don't believe healing should have a profit motive.  When you corrupt healthcare with greed both health and care are compromised.  There is no profit without sales and the ultimate goal of the salesman is to sell as much product as they can.  It's a goal inconsistent with medicine. 

Medicine should be more like the Red Cross than General Motors.  After all GM may charge you for antenna wax but the Red Cross will never charge you for a cot and a blanket when you need one. 
The worst part comes when we see our friends in the legal industry show up on late night TV again.  This time, however, it's not an auto accident or denied disability claim.  It's a class action against the pharmaceutical companies for injuries caused by their wares. 

Medicine isn't M&M's and shouldn't be marketed as such.  Pharmaceutical companies rush products to market often with inadequate testing and lax safeguards.  Competition may be the core of capitalism but it can be lethal to the unlucky patient receiving a recalled prescription.  Profit motives in business is fine, profit motives in healthcare at any level is a perversion.