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Don't let the media persuade you to "medicalize" every health concern. Sometimes the best solutions are non-drug solutions - that may save you from side effects and having to spend $6,000 a year or more at the pharmacy.

Drug Ads Don't Just Sell Drugs

If you watch television in the United States, you don't need to buy a copy of a book on the topic of Great Sex for Couples Over 50. If you believe what you see on TV, you just need a deck, a barbecue grill, and Cialis.
 

Most of the time, it turns out, it is the doctor's response to advertising that increases demand, not the patient's. So what is wrong TV advertising for medication?

  • 44% of advertisements directed at doctors, a medical study concluded, offer misleading information about dosing and prescribing information.
  • TV advertisements create an awareness of one diagnostic possibility among many, so doctors have to spend more time educating patients and persuading them that their diagnoses (if other than what they have seen on TV) are correct. Patients tend to contest diagnoses of diseases they have not seen advertised on television.
  • Drug advertising tends to "feminize" medical understanding, appealing to wives, mothers, and women, rather than to husbands, fathers, and men. Presenting conditions from a woman's point of view (including erectile dysfunction) gives women the information they need to ask the right questions at the doctor's office, but not men.
  • Constant bombardment with drug ads tends to "medicalize" consumer's understanding of health, increasing the inclination to look for a solution from a bottle of pills rather than from making lifestyle changes.

Advertisers of prescription drugs often categorize the viewing public as avoiders, embracers, negotiators, and jumpstarters:

The famous Cialis ads are aimed at avoiders, couples who would not otherwise seek medical treatment for ED. The Cialis ad is intended to motivate the female partner of the couple to persuade her husband or boyfriend to get the drug.

The Lipitor ad is aimed at embracers of medical treatment who are afraid of having heart attacks of their own.

The Abilify ad is aimed at negotiators. They are told all the reasons not to take the medication (death, for instance) but then offered a free sample.

And the Nexium ad is aimed at jumpstarters who are ready for relief now.

American advertisers have enormous skill for stimulating purchases. When you get the urge to ask your doctor to prescribe you a pill you have seen advertised on television, please do a quick search of this site to see if there is not a non-medical method that might give you the relief you seek. If the advertisement inspires you to urge your spouse or significant other to get the pill, ask what your spouse or significant other thinks about what the problem really is. And stop and think whether the ad "pushes your buttons" as an avoider, embracer, negotiator, or jumpstarter.

Don't let the media persuade you to "medicalize" every health concern.

Sometimes the best solutions are non-drug solutions—that may save you from side effects and having to spend $6,000 a year or more at the pharmacy.

  • Othman N, Vitry A, Roughead EE. Quality of pharmaceutical advertisements in medical journals: a systematic review. PLoS One. 2009 Jul 22,4(7):e6350.
  • Photo courtesy of dryicons on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/dryicons/5865192838/

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