Monday, 3 January 2011

I know medication better than my Doctor

Or so American TV would have me believe.

Hank is back at work and I'm home alone, staring out the window with Kosmo the Wonderdog.  I have turned to my truest friend: TV.

There is a weird trend in American TV commercials urging me to ask my Doctor to prescribe me certain brands of drugs.  I am evidently expected to lobby my Doc for medication I have seen on TV. Prescription medication, as seen on TV.

Although the advice comes from TV (my truest friend) I remain sceptical about the wisdom of this approach.  I can't help but think that maybe my Doctor knows which drugs to prescribe me, and when?  Wasn't that part of his medical training?   My Doc didn't spend eight years at medical school just to ask patients which drug they would like to receive, right?

Pharmaceutical companies here lobby the Government and Doctors, which I can sort of understand (sort of) but then they lobby the patients too.  I guess this is a corollary of a profit-making healthcare system, and therefore not something we had in Britain.

My question is not linked to the morality of this issue.  My question is simply: does all the advertising work?

Well, would the American pharmaceutical industry spend so much on it if it didn't work?

Can it work even when some of the TV commercials advertise their possible side effects as "a worsening of the original condition" and when depression drugs list side effects including "increased risk of suicide"?  What about heart treatments which "may increase your risk of cancer or a stroke"...?

I wonder if such commercials can really work at all.   But then again, as John Wanamaker famously said, half the money spent on advertising is wasted, you just don't know which half.   Maybe the American public just doesn't fall for the TV commercials afterall.

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