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The Yankee Express

Those TV Drug Ads…

By Janet Stoica

In 1985 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) allowed drug makers to begin airing ads for new drugs as long as they adhered to agency guidelines on disclosing all side effects.  Now, I don’t know about you but I have certainly become numb to the multitude of drug ads that I see while watching TV. The drug makers seem to focus their ads on certain types of television shows such as Jeopardy and any of the nightly network news broadcasts. I swear if I see another ad for Rybelsus, Dupixent, or Ozempic, I will just scream. No, not really, but I will and do use my remote to the full extent of the law and that entails muting that drug commercial and multi-tasking such as scrolling through my cellphone, Fire tablet, or even postal mail or quickly changing the channel to another station which surprise! is also advertising yet another drug. 
It’s no secret that the older sections of our population are the main viewers these days of paid TV. Younger viewers are enjoying their streaming services on Hulu, Netflix, or YouTube. Since streaming services don’t carry ads except for the inexpensive versions of perhaps Netflix, the older population is the main focus of the pharmaceutical companies. And focus they do in the strongest way possible. Now, I don’t consider myself a very gullible person and don’t feel that I will listen very long to one of the older actors in these drug commercials try to sell me on XYZ drugs to make me feel better or live longer. Why? Because once they start listing the side effects that must be disclosed, I immediately shut down mentally. Typically, the background announcer will quickly reel off or the tiny disclaimer at the bottom of the screen will say/state:  “Do not take if you are allergic to XYZ drug, or if swelling occurs, or if paralysis occurs or if you feel suicidal. Stroke may ensue. Check with your doctor if any of these side effects happen.”
Are you kidding me? Why would I ever want to take a drug I was allergic to? Am I supposed to start using the medication and then learn I’m allergic after my breathing shuts down? Before I get the pharmaceutical sales reps out there writing to me to explain about drug trials and how they work I have to state that yes, I do know how drug trials work. Before a drug can be approved by the FDA for release to the general public, new drug tests must be done on us humans to determine what their side effects might be.  Big Pharma places ads out there in the internet world for people willing to be paid (enticing amounts of cash) to try experimental drugs. During the drug trials, if there are individuals who become dizzy, have elevated blood pressure, or succumb to any other of the ad disclaimers, the drug makers are obligated to disclose that effect at the end of their TV, print, internet, or radio ad. There are several phases to new drug testing before being cleared by the FDA for release to the general population. 
One of the most appalling aspects of these Big Pharma drug ads is that the viewer will never be told that there may be other lesser expensive drugs that can help with their existing physical or mental condition. And, like the often-used phrase about a used car salesperson (apologies to some of the honest used-car salespeople I know), they’ll say anything to make the sale. The drug companies are out to make their bucks on their newly-minted drugs as Big Pharma is, after all, the most profitable industry in America. They have to recoup their expenses for making new chemical combinations that may or may not be of true benefit to us.
No one wants to add more chemicals to their bodies but on the flip side of the coin, there really are some drugs out there that do have terrible side effects but will also cure you. The ones we most all are aware of are cancer drugs. Most of us know someone who has undergone chemotherapy. We have seen the debilitating side effects of the chemo cocktails they must ingest to kill cancer. Our friends and relatives become a shadow of their former selves. Watching their physical changes is truly a testament to the strength and resilience of their wills to overcome the cancers trying to take over their bodies. In many cases, however, survivors overcome the harsh chemicals their bodies are subjected to in order to beat down the terrible affliction that has attacked them. The types of harsh drugs that cancer patients are subjected to could never be advertised on TV as their doses are individualized combinations of chemicals.
It’s a rough situation that we are all a part of. Being subjected to an unending dose of drug ads from Big Pharma is not about to end. The best advice is to take your drug questions to your own primary care physician who will guide you in the most economical path to your own wellness.      

Contact Janet:  [email protected]