Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Bees Taking Over the Evening News?

The ads on TV pushing drugs are getting out of hand. Or, am I the only one about to give up on the National TV news in the early evening? It seems like just about every commercial features a drug. Let me quote from the New England J. of Medicine before proceeding:

"Correctly done is the operative term. Too often, advertising fails to achieve its highest aim. We now have ads on TV that show people walking through meadows as the name is subliminally flashed, and there are birds singing and bees copulating... we've got to cut that out, because that is not what direct to consumer advertising is supposed to be... The industry needs to respond to consumers and physicians, who seek more balanced communication of risks and benefits” ("To inform or persuade? Direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs" NEJM 2005;352:325.)

The FDA on September 11th, 2007, reported on more deaths by pharmaceutical drugs than the terrible events of 9/11 (J. Archives of Internal Medicine, September 2007.) Since 1998 we have known that about 100,000 people die each year from drug reactions or mistakes, which accounts for the 2nd most common cause of all deaths, a fact that is often omitted from medical statistics.

We will always need drugs. I am sure that either us, or a loved one has benefited tremendously from a drug. I almost kicked the bucket myself last month, had it not been for a timely diagnosis and a couple of drugs (I got caught in a thyroid storm that over-stimulated my heart almost to the point of a heart attack: great way to lose weight, but I don’t recommend it…).

My point is that the wonderful benefits of the pharmaceutical revolution may have reached diminishing returns because of over-use. Many books have been written about this issue in the last few years by a variety of authors, including former editors of the New England Journal. If you look at my website and click on my newsletter, you may find some of those titles. My favorite ones are “Overdosed America” by Abramson and “The Truth about the Drug Companies” by Angell.

I don’t wish to belabor the point that others have made far better than I. Perhaps it’s time that we do something simple about this to articulate our dissatisfaction with this state of affairs. Perhaps we could stop watching the National news. The networks would quickly notice and perhaps get those “copulating bees” off the air.

I hereby propose that we let our friends, loved ones and acquaintances know of our displeasure. We may even ask them to do the same with their contacts. Imagine what could happen if this chain were not broken. I know; you don’t like those chains you get about some religious thought or a cheese joke. This is no joke and some of us may get pretty religious if we get wacked by an overzealous drug.

Have a good day, HRod