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Has direct-to-consumer drug advertising improved public health?

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Has direct-to-consumer drug advertising improved public health?

Picture of Martha Rosenberg

Americans should be the healthiest people in the world with our advanced medical care. But thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising, they are some of the "sickest" in the world

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Americans should be the healthiest people in the world with our advanced medical care. But thanks to direct-to-consumer advertising, they are some of the "sickest" in the world suffering from seasonal allergies, depression, mood disorders, dry eye, GERD, perimenopause, adult ADHD, sleep/wake disorders, restless legs, high cholesterol, thinning bones and spectrum disorders which may or may not even have symptoms. (Like people with “epilepsy spectrum disorder” who never had a seizure).

Reporters who expose Big Pharma’s “selling” of diseases are not saying the conditions don’t exist. What we are saying is diseases without clear diagnostic data can and are “sold” by TV ads to suggestive patients and cooperative doctors raising everyone’s taxes, insurance premiums costs and exposing patients to risks that are sometimes worse than the condition they treat.

For example, if you have a serious autoimmune condition that other drugs haven’t helped, you might want to take Humira. If not, you probably don’t want to take an immune-suppressing drug linked to rare cancers, childhood cancers and lethal infections like histoplasmosis.

If you really have GERD, go ahead and take Nexium and or another Proton-Pump Inhibitor. If not, avoid the PPI drug class which is linked to fractures, calcium, magnesium and vitamin B-12 deficiencies, community-acquired pneumonia and the dreaded gut condition Clostridium Difficile. Most people with TV diagnosed “GERD” really have heart burn which used to be treated with Tums. Hello?

If your child has nose running or eye watering, think long and hard before putting him or her on a drug like Singulair widely reported to caused severe behavioral problems which are much worse than mild allergies.

Direct-to-consumer advertising has created a population of symptoms chasers who have been convinced that they may “suffer” from something even if they feel fine.  Do people really need Big Pharma to tell them to see their doctor if they feel sick--and bring a check list to show the doctor so they get the exact advertised drug? How did people know they were sick before 1997 when direct-to-consumer drugs ads began? 

An example of how Big Pharma sells diseases and encourages symptom chasing is seen in ads raising “awareness” of Non-24 sleep wake disorder, which mostly affects blind people, narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and even the pseudobulbar affect (PBA) in which people cry or laugh involuntarily. These are extremely rare diseases that it is almost 100 percent certain the TV viewing public does not have. Why are they on prime time TV?

When it comes to new drugs and publicized diseases, there are several dangerous misconceptions. The general public tends to think disease “awareness” messages are from government health agencies not from Big Pharma--especially when they lack a drug maker’s name or logo. Both patients and doctors tend to think highly advertised drugs would not have been approved if they were not safe. They are wrong. There is a long list of aggressively advertised drugs that were withdrawn for safety reasons after making billions which include Vioxx, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal, Darvon, Phen Fen, Raxar and Propulsid. Others are now severely restricted for safety reasons. Public--and TV watchers--beware.