San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Too Many Drug Commercials

Have you noticed how drug commercials have come to dominate the television airwaves?  Maybe it is only true for the Denver metro area but I suspect it is true nationwide since many of the stations I watch in Denver are cable channels available worldwide.  Drug companies have decided that it is in their best interest to by-pass the standard channel of doctors and pharmacists and advertise directly to the consumers.  I guess their expectation is that consumers will diagnose themselves of a particular illness and then go to their doctors and demand that particular drug as a treatment for that illness.  Or maybe they just want to inform the consumers that the drug is available and when their doctors diagnose them as having a particular disease they will be better informed as to the drug treatments that are available.  Either way, I have had enough of the nonstop barrage of drug commercials on television.
Now I am the first to believe in the free market and I am not going to call for any government legislation that would change the current state of affairs in this sick and over drugged land.  If drug companies want to spend their money on commercials that target the general population, good for them.  If those commercial dollars help keep the television shows I like to watch on the air then I am glad they are there.  But it seems to me that there is something wrong with a society that has so many prescription drugs available to treat so many alleged illnesses.  Is anybody not ill anymore?  Does everyone have some sort of illness?
According to National Public Radio, "Nearly half of all Americans over the age of 12 take prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, sedatives or stimulants, according to a federal survey. And 16 percent of the time those drugs are misused by nearly 19 million Americans."  According to the Washington Post, "Nearly 3 in 5 American adults take a prescription drug, up markedly since 2000 because of much higher use of almost every type of medication, including antidepressants and treatments for high cholesterol and diabetes....researchers found that the prevalence of prescription drug use among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent in 2012 from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent....Researchers noted that eight of the 10 most commonly used drugs in the United States are for hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and other elements of the 'cardiometabolic syndrome.'”  And according to the good people at the Mayo Clinic, "Prescription drug use has increased steadily in the U.S. for the past decade. The percentage of people who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44 percent in 1999-2000 to 48 percent in 2007-08. Spending on prescription drugs reached $250 billion in 2009, the year studied, and accounted for 12 percent of total personal health care expenditures. Drug-related spending is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, the researchers say."  I guess with all that money at stake the drug companies think it is a good risk to advertise to drug consumers directly.  Good for them.
Last Friday I decided to conduct a little survey of my own.  I watched a total of five hours of television on Friday.  Those five hours were broken down into 1 hour of CNBC, thirty minutes of Jeopardy on a local network and 3.5 hours of a Colorado Rockies game.  I kept a pad next to me while I watched these three shows and I recorded all of the drug commercials I witnessed in a scant five hours.  Here is a list of the drugs the pharmaceutical companies want me to purchase, in the order I saw them on the television:
  1. Cosentyx
  2. Repatha
  3. Tylenol
  4. Clear Eyes
  5. Chantix
  6. Cologuard
  7. Qunol
  8. Allegra-D
  9. Phillips Colon Health
  10. Cialis
  11. Eliquis
  12. Aleve
  13. Xyzal
  14. Viagra
  15. Dulcolax
  16. Kylenna
  17. Entresto
I don't even remember what half of these drugs are supposed to treat.  I do remember that several of them were to be taken to treat conditions created by taking some of the other drugs on the list.  I guess that is how so many people end up taking multiple pills every day.  It all seems crazy to me but it is true.
Complaining about something that bothers me isn't of any value, and I am not about to criticize the free market, but it seems to me that something decidedly unfree is taking place here.   I think it is quite possible that the government cartel known as the pharmaceutical/medical complex is playing us all for a bunch of fools.  It has always disturbed me that my broker gives me advice but my doctor issues me orders.  Why is it that doctors have authority to issue orders to their patients whereas brokers can only render advice to their clients?  Where does that authority come from?
I read an internet article written by another doctor a month or so ago in which he described how doctors and drug companies collude to sell billions of dollars in cholesterol drugs every year.  I don't know if what he wrote is true, anymore than I don't know if what my doctor tells me is true, but this was his argument.  According to this doctor cholesterol lowering drugs (which require the taking of Qunol to reverse the adverse effects of the anti-cholesterol drugs) are being falsely advertised as far as their effectiveness is concerned.  Apparently studies of large groups of people using cholesterol medication has discovered that those who take the drug over many years find that their risk of having a heart attack is reduced by one third.  Or that is what the drug companies claim.  According to this other doctor the fact is that out of a group of 100 people, three people will die of a heart attack if none of them take the cholesterol drug whereas in a group of 100 people who take the drug only two people will die of a heart attack.  The drug companies are technically correct when they say that the risk of suffering a heart attack is reduced by one third when taking the drug but seriously overstate the effectiveness of the drug when it is acknowledged that only 1% of the people taking it will avoid a heart attack.
I don't know who is correct in all of these arguments.  I haven't read all of the studies and even if I did I would likely not understand them.  All I know is that there are way too many drug commercials on the television and I would like to see them go away.  In their place I would love to see commercials for package travel deals to Wales.  The commercials could include lots of shots of Mt. Snowdon and the general Snowdonia area.  Now that would be nice.

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