Profiling Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the New York Times pointed out that abuse of prescription drugs is eclipsing the abuse of illegal drugs. Abigail Zuger, “A General in the Drug War,” The New York Times at D1, June 14, 2011. According to the article, from 2000 to 2010, hospitalizations related to prescription drugs increased by 400% and overdose deaths by 300%. Recreational use of prescription narcotics by high school seniors exceeds the use of heroine and cocaine, combined. It is not just a coincidence that prescription drug abuse has shot up at the same time direct-to-consumer (DTC) commercials for prescription drugs took over the one-eyed babysitter. Consumers are conditioned to resort to prescription drugs for imagined (restless-leg-syndrome) as well as real (arthritis) maladies. The conditioning is not limited to consumers for whom the drugs are intended; it is directed at the public at large. It should be no surprise that abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise.
A commercial in which a pathetic schlub who cannot pull the tab on his beer is transformed by an arthritis medication into an extreme athlete pulling 720s on a skateboard is a powerful incentive for couch potatoes to try some. They will not pay attention to the droning narration of possible side effects: “May cause anorexia, bloating, cardiac arrest, diarrhea, echolalia, flatulence, gonorrhea, hydroencephalism, incontinence, jaundice, kinesia, laryngitis, menopause, nephritis, onychomycosis, psychosis, quadriplegia, rubella, synesthesia, tremors, urethritis, vertigo, warts, xerophthalmia, yawning, and zoonosis. All they see is a lummox like them turning into the jock they want to be.
People should stop believing commercials. If Pfizer® spends 30 Big on a Lipitor® campaign, it is not for the benefit of consumers with cholesterol problems. Pfizer® does not care whether a patient has high cholesterol or not. Pfizer® is trying to convince everyone to hit up a doctor for a Lipitor® prescription. They want the patient to say to the doctor, “I do not have high cholesterol now? I need Lipitor® to keep from getting it.” The commercials are intended to convince every watcher that he or she needs Lipitor®.
You do not believe your brother-in-law when he promises that this time he will pay you back. Not when he has hit you up for loan after loan for crackbrained schemes or to buy things that you cannot afford. You do not believe your neighbor when he promises to get your edger back to you in good shape. Not after he returned your mower with a broken blade, lost your cordless drill, cut the cord on your trimmer and sold your circular saw on craigslist. Do not believe advertising claims–especially DTC advertising for prescription drugs. Let your doctor tell you when you need a drug, not the manufacturer that makes a profit selling it to suckers whether they need it or not.
For a compilation of drug commercials and the side-effects of the products they promote, go to:
The New York Times has an in-depth examination of prescription drug ads at the following URL:
John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
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