Here’s a pill, won’t you have another?

I finally got myself a TV set to take advantage of the free cable that’s included with my rent, which I found out about on my own a month after I moved in. Don’t get excited, its not a plasma or any kind of flat screen. If anything its the polar opposite; I got a 1985 Panasonic 13″ color television. I also only paid $10 for it and it works just fine. You may be laughing but I should mention that I hardly ever watch my TV on an actual television. I download the shows I like to watch and watch them at my leisure, without commercials, on the beauty of my flat-screen computer screen. 😉 This TV is pretty neat though; it’s got a carrying handle built into the top and a little slot to stash away the remote in the front. Nifty little thing if I ever saw one.

This isn’t about the television set I got though. I caught the second-half of the CSI: Miami / CSI: NY cross-over story on tonight’s episode of CSI: NY. While I was watching it though something caught my attention. In the hour that I was watching, I saw no less than five commercials for five different prescription medications for everything from cancer (well, increasing white blood cell counts to help with chemo, not fighting cancer itself) to birth control. No, this isn’t the first time that I’ve seen such ads but it really struck a chord with me that there were so many in such a short time.

I guess I am a little uneasy with the whole thing. Capitalism works because the people who develop a new product or drug treatment end up benefitting from it. This is what motivated them to work so hard on developing it in the first place. And the drug was something someone needed or wanted, or so we say. Up to this point everything’s fine and dandy. I think personal interest is in most cases an extension of a person’s survival instincts. That’s probably why capitalism is so successful at motivating strange creatures like humans into doing all manner of things.

Where I start to feel uneasy is when people are constantly being bombarded with messages about all the prescription drugs that are available. Ideally the drug companies should be telling the doctor’s who will be prescribing the drug about the drug, its benefits and risks, so they are in a position to make a decision on what drugs they can prescribe to which patients. It seems to me that patients should not be the ones asking their doctor for a specific treatment; they should present the symptoms and allow the doctor who’s qualified to make that decision. And if the companies were to stop advertising to patients directly, would they not be making a profit on the drugs when they sold them to their health care provider? Perhaps not as much if the patients were not all going to their doctors clamoring for a certain prescription?

But that’s what the drug companies are pushing for by advertising prescription medicines to people five times an hour right? What possible other purpose could these ads serve? And you’ve seen how ridiculous these ads are. Everyone they show is so happy about their medication while in the background the dude (its the same one for every ad too I think) is reading you the fine print about how you could get blood clots and increased risk of birth defects if you take the medicine. Really, is the person listening paying attention to that? Would it even matter if they were? They’re clearly not qualified to make the decision on what drug they should be taking, otherwise medical schools would not exist.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think its right to be foisting all these possibly false hopes on people that are ill through the machinations of the drug company’s ad agency.

The only thing I guess I could be ignoring is if there is some sort of political triangle between the drug companies, the health care providers and the doctors themselves that is preventing new and helpful medications getting to patients in a timely fashion. The politics is there I’m sure; I’m just not sure we can assume the second part of that.

Ultimately I think I’m of the opinion that there are some things in life that shouldn’t be driven on profit. I would say our health care is one of them. But this post is starting down the slippery slope of discussing the state of health care in this country that I have neither the time nor the knowledge to argue about. That’s a different mess altogether.

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