Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Got drugs?

What in the world is happening to America? Is everyone really on drugs? And I'm not even referring to the illegal type. I'm talking about the kind you get with a prescription from your doctor.

If you've watched American TV lately, you can't go five minutes (I swear!) without seeing an ad for some kind of drug that's going to make you sleep soundly, lower your cholesterol, get rid of your allergies, improve your sex life, control your high blood pressure or diabetes, ease your arthritis pain, take away your depression or anxiety and give you a reason to live.

Apparently, since 1997 when the Food & Drug Administration relaxed its rules about advertising, the pharmaceutical companies rejoiced, and in 2006 spent $5.29 billion on consumer advertising. This of course makes me wonder who's in bed with the FDA.

Worse yet, the pharms are so wily as to present much of their advertising as Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to advocate for disease awareness. Not so surprisingly, health care costs in America have skyrocketed because 1 out of 3 people who see those ads asks his or her doctor about prescribing the medication.

I'm not saying there aren't ample and valid reasons for taking prescribed medications, but I am wondering why we've become such a drugged-out nation. There seems to be an obvious correlation between the amount of money spent on advertising and the number of people asking their doctors for prescriptions.

With the push to bring each new drug to market faster and faster—thereby making pharms richer and richer—and the increasingly familiar headlines about potentially lethal side effects of some of those drugs, why are so many people still inclined to chase that magic pill for a perceived instantaneous fix?

In Japan, drug advertising is still prohibited, but like so many other things, Japan will probably eventually relax its restrictions due to the aging population and pressure from the pharms.

Here are some numbers that indicate the power of advertising:

$4.65 billion—Amount of consumer advertising spent by the pharmaceutical industry in 2005
$5.29 billion—Amount of consumer advertising spent by the pharmaceutical industry in 2006
$4.20—Amount of additional sales each $1 in advertising generates
16—Average number of hours of prescription drug advertising Americans see each year

Sources: TNS Media Intelligence, Kaiser Family Foundation, Journal of Health Communication

Hopefully, people will start waking up to the fact that they're being manipulated for the sake of greed.

For anyone who's interested in a more serious take on what's happening with drug advertising, here's another video (which makes a first for me to include 2 videos in one post.)

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