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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Self-medicated Society: Effects of Television and Ads

In his book, Death by Prescription, Ray D. Strand poses the question: "Why do pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars on direct-to-consumer advertising, when consumers can only obtain prescriptions for these drugs through a doctor? Wouldn't it seem that consumers have no influence whatsoever on the success of a prescription drug, so advertising should be directed entirely toward doctors? 

We are what Strand calls a "self-medicated" society. Consumers do not actually write their own prescriptions, but they practically do, based on whatever drugs they see advertised on television.

"Surveys reported in medical literature reveal 
that when a patient comes into a doctor's office and requests
a specific drug that he has seen advertised in the media, the doctor writes the exact prescription the patient requested
more than 70 percent of the time!"

(Dana Veracity, "The Great Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertising Con: 
How Patients and Doctors Alike Are Easily Influenced to Demand Dangerous Drugs,", July 31 2005)

Of course, medical doctors claim are scientifically trained, supposedly rational people. They claim to give only prescriptions that are medically necessary. Yet, it seems when a patient comes in and mentions the name of a drug, all rationality and scientific thinking is seriously compromised.

Commercials can be very seductive. Drug companies routinely exploit this seduction, this form of influence, to create demand for products in the minds of consumers, and then to make sure these consumers go to their doctors' offices and request those products, thus generating sales.

Surprising Research

Does TV does create enough of an impression on several levels to be considered mind control.? American doctors have complained that patients come to them demanding prescriptions for advertised drugs, sometimes even before the MDs know of them.

"Researchers sent a group of people, who said 
they saw the drug Paxil in a TV advertisement, 
into doctors’ offices. Many of these patients 
didn't even show signs of depression, 
but when they named the drug, 
50 percent were diagnosed as having depression, 
and 55 percent were given a prescription 
for the exact prescription drug they named."

(Mike Adams, "Experiment Shows Medical Doctors To Be Glorified Drug Dealers, 
Easily Manipulated by Drug Companies,", July 2 2005)

In the experiment, when people named Paxil, they were more than five times as likely to be given a prescription for it than someone who didn't name it. Does this simple experiment demonstrate how many doctors are puppets of the pharmaceutical industry?

Have many doctors been reduced to glorified drug dealers 
controlled by American pharmaceutical companies?

The FDA  allows Big Pharma to promote drugs with TV commercials. Only two nations in the world that allow this -- the USA and New Zealand.

Reporter Alix Spiegel ("Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care," National Public Radio, October 13 2009) says:

"It used to work like this: 
Doctors decided what to prescribe. 
Drug companies — through medical advertisers — tried to influence doctors. 
Patients did what they were told."

But, for the drug companies, this system was far too slow. Then, doctors held the "keys to the kingdom," and drug companies spent enormous amounts of time and money trying to get their attention. At that time, the average doctor got around 3,000 pieces of mail a year from the drug industry, and to break through this noise often took years. After all, doctors are very busy people with very little time to review advertisements.

So, ad people decided would advertise drugs directly to the patient. They'd get the patient to go into the office and ask the doctor for the drug. The advertising executives decided to let the patient "pull the drug through the system."

At first the ad execs faced a hitch. The ads had to scroll the whole disclosure information over the television screen: with so much disclosure, this was a big problem for something like a brief television commercial designed to reveal good points of a product. In the early 1980s, FDA regulations required that drug ads include both the name of a drug and its purpose, as well as information about all the side effects. They got around this by never giving the drug's name and using something like this: "Your doctor now has treatment which won't make you drowsy. See your doctor."

Before they used this strategy, a drug named Seldane (an antihistamine-decongestant removed from the U.S. market in 1997) made about $34 million in sales a year, which at the time was considered pretty good. Their new goal was to get the drug up to $100 million in sales. But when sales went through $100 million, then through $300 million, then through $400 million, then through $500 million, and eventually to $800 million, pharmaceutical companies were ecstatic. 

Today, drug companies spend $4 billion a year on ads to consumers.

In 1997, the FDA rules governing pharmaceutical advertising changed, and now companies can name both the drug
and what it's for, while only naming the most significant potential side effects. 

Then, the number of ads really exploded. The Nielsen Co. estimates that there's an average of 80 drug ads every hour of every day on American television. And those ads clearly produce results. (Alix Spiegel, "Selling Sickness: How Drug Ads Changed Health Care," National Public Radio, October 13 2009) 

So do pharmaceuticals make you happy? That's what's on TV, so why not "abuse" them? You have seen the commercials. What is the primary purpose of the pharmaceutical advertising you view? Of course, we all know the primary purpose of any ad is to sell the product. Do we have to have a chemical holocaust in this country before the FDA wants to do something to protect people?

Many people are questioning conventional medicine and doctors who diagnose diseases and think of them all as being chemical disorders that can be treated through pharmacology and prescription drugs. More and more intelligent, well-educated people are turning to natural medicine, natural health. They are avoiding toxins in the food supply, avoiding dangerous personal care products, and exercising with cardiovascular training, strength training, tai chi, Pilates, martial arts, swimming, etc.

More Research Says...

"Despite claims that ads serve an educational purpose, they provide limited information about the causes of a disease or who may be at risk; they show characters that have lost control over their social, emotional, or physical lives without the medication; and they minimize the value of health promotion through lifestyle changes. The ads have limited educational value and may oversell the benefits of drugs in ways that might conflict with promoting population health."

(Dominick L. Frosch, PhD, Patrick M. Krueger, PhD, et al, "Creating Demand for Prescription Drugs: A Content Analysis of Television Direct-to-Consumer Advertising," Report 27th annual meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making, October 2005)

"It is time to ban direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising of prescription drugs.... The use of broad media coverage to encourage prescription drug use is a shotgun where an individualized, personalized approach is needed. These ads present biased appeals to the masses to influence decisions about drugs that are designed (and legally required) to be prescribed within the context of a relationship between a knowledgeable professional and a person who is known as an individual. The broad scope of these ads dramatically increases the potential for adverse outcomes as many viewers may be influenced inappropriately in an attempt to reach a few who could benefit from the message."

(Kurt C. Stange, MD, "Time to Ban Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Marketing," Annuls of Family Medicine, March 7 2007)

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